The school that I work at in Kuwait is a bilingual school in Kuwait. This style of school, where students learn Arabic and English, is ever increasing in number and not just in Kuwait. The difficulty comes when parents want to move their children from a single language government school (in Arabic) to a Bilingual school.
In a bilingual school students generally take Math, Science, Computers, and ELA in English Language. Additional classes like PE, Art, Music, etc maybe taught in English of the students first language depending on the school. At my current school they receive instruction in English. Then they take classes to continue learning about their first language, in this case Arabic. Students may also take Social Studies in their mother tongue. At my school Quran, and Islam are also taught in Arabic.
When applying to the school students take a small entrance test to assess their Math and English levels. Students abilities are assessed by a team. Some students, especially for upper grades are not accepted if their English abilities will make class too difficult for them. This means that students will no English skills applying for grade 3+.
Students who score on par with others in their grade level (the students in the one below the one they are applying for) will be accepted into the school.
Students who score a little low are recommended for 1 month of tutoring. Tutoring is 3 days a week for 1 hour (for grade 1-5) for 4 weeks. The thought is with a little help they can re-take the test and show an increase in abilities. This increase will hopefully help them when they enter a bilingual environment.
It changes a bit for entrance into grade 1 though. They don’t really want to turn anyone away, hoping they will learn in an immersive environment. I have begun tutoring for these incoming students through the school. Some students need a little help but will do well in a bilingual school. They know their letters and sounds, they can communicate their wants and needs in English.
Some students come with a vocabulary of maybe 20-50 words. My current students can count to 10 (kind of), and tell me they need the toilet but a full sentence in beyond them. If they enter into grade 1 they will struggle to communicate with the teacher. They will be far behind the students that can already read and write. The other difficulty is that there will be no one at home to help them with their homework, as their parents likely do not speak English.
I’m not saying don’t accept the student. They will learn and progress fast if they apply themselves. The parents need to know though that these students will not get perfect marks. They will improve at their pace and not the pace of the class. They will have extra support teachers to help them with their English but they will get low marks. Parents here tend to want their children to get perfect marks even when their work doesn’t dictate it. They feel that they pay for this education so they should be given the good grades to go along with the education. Nothing makes me more crazy.
Anyway I tutor until the end of the school year. I hope that at least I can get the students to know their letters and sounds and maybe work on a bit of math with them. I want them to be as successful as possible in grade 1.