For the past couple of decades Spaniards have increasingly recognised how important it is to have a good command of written and spoken English.The relatively recent inclusion of English in the national curriculum at primary school level, as well as a substantial rise in the number private schools offering bilingual Spanish-English education and private academies offering children and adults intensive English courses are all an indication of the demand here for good-quality English tuition.
During the Franco dictatorship, French was the first second language taught in secondary schools, with the result that Spaniards in their forties or over have usually had to learn English late, at evening classes or intensive courses, or have had to struggle along in an increasingly global world offering immediate access to information via an Internet dominated by English. Thousands of parents pay for their children to have private English tuition as a way of counteracting the generally low standard of English language tuition offered by state schools.
Today the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, announced that next year a total of 80 state schools will offer their pupils a bilingual (Spanish-English) education. Last year 26 schools were equipped to offer bilingual studies, and the experience has been so successful that 54 other schools will become bilingual as from September 2005. Pupils in the first and second years of these primary schools will receive a third of their classes in English. President Aguirre confirmed that the number of schools offering bilingual education in the Madrid Community will rise to 110 over the next two years.
Teaching staff in the schools which have chosen to become bilingual will start attending an intensive English course this month, and will spend next July attending a residential course in England.
Each school will be twinned with a primary school in the United Kingdom to facilitate school exchanges for pupils and teaching staff.