Early language learning in private language schools in the Republic of Cyprus: teaching methods in modern times
Early language learning can be an enriching experience that brings about a great deal of benefits for children. It can help them enhance their language learning, problem solving and expression, their cognitive growth, attention span and self-confidence, and assist them in appreciating their identity and culture (Cameron 2003; Curtain 1990; Nikolov 2009, 2016; Read 2014; Singleton & Ryan 2004). All this is possible if language learning is monitored in an efficient manner, that is, when age-appropriate approaches are applied within the Young Language Learner’s (YLL) classroom (Nikolov & Mihaljević-Djigunović 2011). However, early language learning and teaching has endured a number of issues around the globe, even more so when the teaching and learning of languages belong to private supplementary tutoring, also known as ‘shadow’ education (Bray 1999; Heyneman 2011). The metaphor is used, according to Bray (2011), because private tutoring imitates the mainstream school system, and as formal education expands shadow education expands with it. Many countries around the world experience the booming phenomenon of supplementary private tutoring (Bray 2003, 2009; Bray & Lykins 2012; Bray & Kwok 2003). Bray’s research (2011), in particular, reveals that every year families in Europe spend astonishing amounts of capital on private tutoring. Despite its proliferation around the world, and economic and social implications (Bray 1999; Kwok 2004; Hartmann 2013; Oller & Glasman 2013; Buhagiar & Chetcuti 2013), private tutoring across school subjects, and English in particular – a special and important subclass of private tutoring worldwide (Hamid, Sussex & Khan 2009) – has received little research attention overall (Bray 2011). The present exploratory study conducted in Cypriot private language schools (locally known as frontistiria), seeks to explore, how YLL teachers operate in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) frontistiria classrooms, the teaching methods used, the impact these are likely to have on language learning, and the nature of teacher training undertaken and needed. Research outcomes are expected to foster ongoing support for good teaching practices that can increase the chances for successful language learning and effective teaching in the private sector. To establish a clearer understanding of the language-learning situation within the current educational context, the following section will elaborate on the language learning scope of ‘shadow’ education in Cyprus (the Greek term being parapedia), and present findings of the research undertaken.
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