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EKPAROLI Project Report 1994 - 1997

 

Professor Alan J. Bishop
Faculty of Education
Monash University
Clayton, Victoria
Australia, 3168

 

1. Background to the project

In 1994 the Government of the State of Victoria proposed that every primary school should begin to teach at least one LOTE(Language Other than English). However for many primary schools this proposal presented them with some huge problems. For example many did not have any trained LOTE teachers on their staff, and they had many difficulties in choosing which LOTE to teach. This was a particular problem in those schools where there were perhaps more than 20 first languages spoken in the school, or where there were perhaps 2 dominant home languages represented. Add to this the fact that many parents had their own old ideas about which 'foreign' European languages should be taught, in contrast to the Government who were making it clear that their priority was Asian languages, and you have a thoroughly confusing situation for many school councils and principals.

Meanwhile it was clear from the Esperanto experiments in Europe ( see Symoens' summary 1992, referred to below) that Esperanto helped learners to make a good, quick start in learning their second European languages. However no research had been done on whether the early learning of Esperanto helped with the later learning of any Asian languages. The situation unfolding in Victoria seemed to offer an ideal opportunity to do some research on that idea. Jennifer and Alan Bishop decided to create such a project, which went under the acronym of EKPAROLI (Esperanto Kiel Propedeåtiko Al Rapidiáo de Orientlingvo Lernado kaj Instruado) which in English means 'Esperanto as a preparatory method for speeding up Asian language learning and teaching'. Ekparoli also means 'to begin to speak' in Esperanto!

With the help of funds from the Esperanto Associations in Melbourne, Victoria, West Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Esperanto Association, as well as individual Esperantists the project was able to begin its work. It was also able to get reasonable financial help from Monash University, which enabled the project to have an office and a presence at Monash in the Faculty of Education. It also enabled us to hire two part-time research assistants, one a skilled primary teacher and the other a language researcher. Jennifer Bishop was responsible for the Esperanto teaching in the schools as well as teaching it to the teachers. Alan Bishop was in overall charge of the organisation of the project.

2. Aim and rationale of the project

The general aim of the EKPAROLI project was to study the effects of teaching Esperanto in Primary schools on the pupils' subsequent learning of Asian languages in Secondary schools. In Edward Symoens' summary document "Al nova internacia lingvopolitiko: la propedeutika valoro de Esperanto", Esperanto-Dokumentoj, No. 28-29E (1992), various propaedeutic teaching experiments are described. (propaedeutic means `preparatory instruction') Their combined impact leaves no doubt that early learning of Esperanto helps with later learning of other languages.

Symoens' summary suggested to us that there are three hypotheses which could account for the propaedeutic value of Esperanto:

(a) The teaching of any second language has propaedeutic benefits for learning a third language. The argument underlying this hypothesis is that because one learns a second language differently from the way one learns one's mother tongue, then any second language learning will tend to help - in a sense, the more you learn languages, the easier it is to learn new languages.

(b) The teaching of Esperanto has benefits for the later learning of any European language. The argument behind this second hypothesis is that Esperanto, having a simplified structure, European word-base and a Latin script, is ideally suited for helping learn other European languages, but there is no reason to suspect it would help with learning Asian languages.

(c) The teaching of Esperanto has benefits for the later learning of any other language, including Asian languages. The argument underlying this third hypothesis is that because of the simplified structure and logic of Esperanto, a learner quickly learns about the structuring of language and this enables the learning of any other language to proceed quicker and more effectively. In relation to Asian languages there is no evidence that our Chinese and Japanese friends have any particular difficulty learning Esperanto, thereby demonstrating that there is no particular problem caused by the cultural or word-base differences between European and Asian languages.

3. Project activities in 1994 and 1995

The project began in October 1994 just when the primary schools were making their decisions about which LOTEs to start in the next school year in February 1995. By telephoning nearly 100 schools in the areas relatively near to Monash, we found three schools who were interested in joining the EKPAROLI project. In all there were eight classes of Year 5 and 6 students and their 9 teachers. Before the start of the school year the nine teachers agreed to participate in a four-day course about the fundamentals of Esperanto. Only two of the nine had already learnt a foreign language.

So, at the beginning of the 1995 school year, Edithvale, Carrum and Clayton North Primary Schools began teaching Esperanto at the year 5/6 level to approximately 240 students. Throughout that school year there was constant contact with the three schools, including fortnightly network meetings and classroom visits. Network meetings were held at all three schools on a rotating basis, and provided a valuable opportunity for teachers to practise their Esperanto, exchange teaching ideas, and give feedback to the research team regarding their progress and requirements. Throughout the school year network meetings were held with the teachers to discuss the teaching ideas and to improve their own Esperanto skills.

Concerning the teaching materials, there were two units developed. Unit 1 materials developed in late 1994 (based on the BBC's Mazi in Gondoland) were used by teachers during 1995. A second set of activity sheets (Unit 2) was developed from the beginning of 1995, and has been produced by Monash University's Faculty of Education's A-V department. This unit was available for classroom teaching in 1996, and provided extension language activities to complement the full Mazi en Gondolando teaching kit, which was also available for the schools' use in 1996.

Regarding the evaluation part of the research, contact with the other primary schools and with the common secondary schools was established during term 2 of that school year. To determine which primary schools might be suitable as control schools for the purposes of the research, the main secondary schools to which the Esperanto students would progress were contacted. Visits were made to each school by the research assistants, during which the research project was explained in detail to the principal. Each school provided a list of its `feeder' primary schools, the number of students who came from these schools in 1995, and the LOTE(s) taught in Year 7.

After determining the primary schools which provide enrolments to the secondary schools, and taking into consideration which LOTE was taught at Year 6 level in each school, a list of possible `control' schools was developed. This list was further reduced bearing in mind the possible combinations of languages (e.g. primary school Indonesian ---- >secondary school Japanese etc.).

Each of the primary schools was contacted, and asked whether or not they were willing to participate in the research. An outline of the research aims and procedure was provided to the principal and Year 6/LOTE teachers. As some schools declined to participate, other schools on the original list (but not included in the final 16) were contacted. The final list of participating schools involved the 3 Esperanto schools, and 5 non-Esperanto schools, 3 of which are teaching a European language and 2 an Asian language.

During the recruitment of schools into the research project, permission was sought from the Directorate of School Education (Victoria) and Monash University Ethics Committees. After a fairly long process, permission was granted from both bodies to begin the research in schools.

4. Outcomes in 1995

(a) Teaching materials

In the teachers' opinions, the content, subject-matter, design and presentation were excellent. The content of Unit 1 was sufficient for one year's work but needed to have the support of the whole 'Mazi en Gondolando' course, which had only arrived from Poland at the end of 1995. Supplementary songs and phrase lists were also very useful as were the teachers' exchange of ideas for activities. In addition a helpful booklet was received from Italy, entitled 'Lingvo Orientado per Esperanto en la unua-grada lernejo - Gvidlibro por instruistoj' (Language Orientation in the primary school, through Esperanto - a handbook for teachers) by Elisabetta Formaggio. This book was produced for use in UNESCO schools where Esperanto is being taught within the framework of the UNESCO propaedeutic language project FUNDAPAX. It consists of examples of games which teachers could use in order to encourage children to speak the language as well information on earlier propaedeutic projects using Esperanto.

A separate In-Service course would be required before using Unit 2, as it contains a broader exposure to the Esperanto language than does Unit 1, as well as new grammatical and linguistic concepts.

(b) Pupils' language learning

From the teachers' observations, the attitude of the pupils to learning another language was good. They were eager to write and to be creative in developing their vocabulary with the aid of the accompanying glossary of words and the class dictionaries.

From her teaching experience in the classrooms, Jennifer Bishop found the pronunciation of sounds through imitation to be excellent. However the period of 45 minutes per week was felt to be inadequate to assure the retention of words and phrases from one week to the next, necessitating total revision before introducing a new construction.

Initially, the oral teaching was by the direct method, total immersion in Esperanto with constant repetition and acting of phrases until the children were able to understand. However, it later became apparent that because the pupils were being taught by this method only once per week, they were unable to retain phrases and rather than trying to work out the meaning from the context, would seek a translation into English, possibly from their class teacher who was always present and learning with the class. Another factor for the slight change in methodology in some of the classes was that the pupils were almost 100% from an English-speaking background so that some explanations in English were appropriate, once a general understanding of a phrase had been achieved.

5. Teaching activities in 1996

In 1996, Edithvale PS decided to concentrate on French as its LOTE program, but the Esperanto teaching continued at Carrum PS and Clayton North PS. During this year the Department of School Education required all primary schools to begin teaching LOTE from Year 5, which had been happening anyway in the EKPAROLI project.

At Carrum PS, the Year 6s moved on to Unit 2 of the developed worksheets and the new Year 5s started with the first Unit of worksheets supplemented by the new video 'Mazi en Gondolando'. At Clayton North PS, the Year 6s moved on to Unit 2 whereas the new Year 5s started with Japanese instead of Esperanto . Thus, the year 6 classes at both schools, and their teachers, had been learning Esperanto for two years.

All classes were taught by their own class teacher as well as receiving an additional one hour per week, whenever possible, from Jennifer Bishop. As considered desirable, the teachers and Jennifer Bishop conferred in order to plan the teaching program.

1995 had been a very busy year for the production of materials, with both Unit 1 and Unit 2 being used in Years 5 and 6 at both Carrum PS and Clayton N.PS. Therefore, in 1996, there was not such a need for creating and producing materials. Also, since the production of Unit 1, based on the first trial unit of the video series 'Mazi en Gondolando' Tommy Publishers, Poland, a complete course had been produced on two videos with accompanying texts and cassette. Each of the three schools had the complete course, although in order to use it effectively, the teachers needed either to be fluent Esperanto-speakers in order to develop and create additional activities, or they need a teachers' manual and explanation in English.

6. Research activities in 1996

Regarding the research component of the project, the final list of schools participating in the comparative project involved the 3 Esperanto primary schools, and 4 non-Esperanto teaching primary schools, 1 of which was teaching a European language and 3 an Asian language. The data used in the study were gathered primarily from questionnaires, completed by both students and teachers. In this section of the report the most important aspects of the year 6 student questionnaire data will be presented. This was the student cohort which moved to their secondary schools in 1996 and which was to be assessed again at the end of 1996, to evaluate the relative value of Esperanto as a preparatory language for later language study.

The same questionnaire was given to all the students and it was administered by the research team, in the presence of the classroom teacher. The researcher read through the questionnaire one question at a time and the students filled in their answers as she went, raising questions as necessary. The questionnaire took approximately half an hour to complete and was in two parts. The first part was designed to establish the student's home language background and, if their first language was not English, the extent to which they use their first language at home and their attitude to this language. It also sought information regarding the student's attitude to LOTE learning at school and their awareness of the importance of LOTEs for children in Australia.

The second part requested information specific to the particular LOTE being studied by the student. It sought information regarding the student's interest in their particular LOTE, whether they thought it was an important LOTE, whether they enjoyed studying it, and which aspects of the LOTE they found hard or easy.

(a) Some characteristics of the student sample

Four LOTEs were studied in the target primary schools, with the following numbers of students being assessed: Esperanto (82), Japanese (57), German (40), Indonesian (44). In the total sample there were 115 girls and 108 boys. In terms of their language background, 151 students were from an English-speaking background (ESB), while 72 were from a non-English speaking background (NESB). The most common other languages spoken in the sample were Greek and Chinese.

Of the whole sample, 153 students said they were glad to be learning a LOTE, while 69 would rather not have to.

Their views on the importance of learning a LOTE were as follows:
very important 54
fairly important 123
not very important 38
don't know 8

They thought that the most important LOTEs to be studied were:
Japanese (65)
Esperanto (22)
Indonesian (22)
with other languages being much less popular.

101 students would like to study the same LOTE at secondary school as they had studied at primary school, while 121 would like to study a different LOTE.

Generally the ESB students thought that it was harder to learn a LOTE than did the NESB students, as might be expected.

(b) Some important differences.

The raw student data were converted to numerical scores and the results statistically analysed using the SPSS package. In the following results the data have been simplified, and are reported in terms of the order of the mean scores of the LOTE groups to which the students belonged.

The following three variables showed a significant difference between the groups, in the order shown:

Attitude to your LOTE(Qu 8) The order of the LOTE groups was:
Glad to be learning LOTE German
Esperanto
Indonesian
Would rather not learn LOTE Japanese

Ease of learning your LOTE(Qu 13):
Easiest Esperanto
German
Indonesian
Hardest Japanese

Enjoyment of learning your LOTE(Qu 20):
One of my favourite subjects Esperanto
German
Indonesian
Don't like it very much Japanese

The pattern of these data is reasonably consistent, which always gives some confidence in the validity of the results. We can see that the Esperanto and German groups generally rated their feelings more favourably than did the Indonesian and Japanese groups.

Some other differences were also found which were not statistically significant, but which showed similar trends to those above:

Importance of learning a LOTE (Qu 11) The order of the LOTE groups was:

Most important Esperanto
German
Indonesian
Least important Japanese

List your favourite subjects (Qu 14):

LOTE included Esperanto

. Indonesian

. German

LOTE not included Japanese

School LOTE useful? (Qu 16):
Most useful German
Japanese
Esperanto
Least useful Indonesian

(c) Comments on the students' results.

From the perspective of LOTE teaching generally at Primary school the results are encouraging. Approximately three-quarters of all the students were glad to be learning a LOTE and even more thought that it was important that LOTEs should be learnt. Predictably the ESB students found it harder to learn their LOTE than did the NESB students, as it is usually the case that the more languages one knows, the easier it is to learn another one.

From the perspective of the Esperanto teachers, the results are very satisfying. Despite having to learn a new, and for them a totally unknown, language from scratch, and almost at the same time as they were teaching it, they were clearly able to convey favourable attitudes, and to create successful learning environments, with their students. The students rated it the easiest LOTE to learn as well as being one of their favourite subjects. The Esperanto students also rated LOTE as a most important subject to study, which indicates an important pay-off for whatever later languages they might learn. Interestingly however these students did not rate Esperanto as such a useful LOTE as the German and Japanese groups rate their languages.

These data relating to the primary school teaching demonstrates convincingly what can be achieved with and through the teaching of Esperanto. Even with teachers who were minimally trained in the language and who had only just learnt it themselves, the effects on the students' feelings and attitudes towards their LOTE learning are impressive. We can only wonder would could have been achieved with longer teacher training courses, with more teaching time in school and with more external support for the ideas.

(d) Primary teachers' questionnaires

Some analysis was also done of the Primary teachers' questionnaires. There was initially some difficulty about getting these completed, as teachers were under extreme time pressure. However we did finally receive data from the Primary school teachers of Esperanto (6), Japanese (5), German (2) and Indonesian (1) and the most interesting differences were revealed by the questions in the tables below.

The first table shows the number of teachers from each group who indicated their level of motivation for their LOTE teaching. As can be seen the Esperanto, German and Indonesian teachers felt positive about the motivation, comparing markedly with the Japanese teachers.  

Level of motivation
Esp (6) Jap (5) Ger (2) Ind (1)
I am very positive about it and I enjoy it 2-21
I am happy to volunteer to do it if required 41--
I have no choice, but I don't find it stressful -2--
I have no choice, and I do find it stressful - 2--

 
Teachers' average self rating of LOTE competence (1 Low - 5 High)
Esp (6) Jap (5) Ger (2) Ind (1)
My listening comprehension in the LOTE 2.4 0.25 5 3
My reading comprehension in the LOTE 2.2 0.25 5 3
My speaking comprehension in the LOTE 1.6 0.25 5 2
My writing comprehension in the LOTE 2 0.5 4.5 3
My overall comprehension in the LOTE 2.2 0.22 5 3
 

In the second table we can see each group of teachers' self-ratings of their LOTE competence. One of the German teachers was a native speaker and the other was almost, hence their high self-ratings. Generally the results for the Esperanto teachers in these two tables are remarkable, given the fact that they were completely naive learners at the start of 1995.

7. Project activities in 1997

Regarding the teaching at the primary schools, Clayton North decided that in 1997 it wished to concentrate on Japanese and not teach any more Esperanto. Carrum PS however wanted to continue and develop its Esperanto teaching further down the school, so during 1997 Jennifer Bishop has been teaching Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 there with the class' regular teachers.

Regarding the research activities, we have been finalising the collection of data from the Secondary school survey done at the end of 1996, and analysing the results. In this report we can present some of the findings, but others will have to wait till after the Congress because the further analyses will be done on a time-consuming student-by-student basis. This was always part of the original plan but it has been made even more necessary by the so-called 'experimental mortality' of the subjects. This phrase refers to those of the original students who have dropped out of the study for reasons such as not continuing to the expected secondary schools, not being present for answering questionnaires, not wishing to participate further in the research, etc. In the current political climate in education in Australia there are also now many more possibilities for parents to send their children to any secondary school of their choice. There were also difficulties in obtaining full data from some of the teachers, and in one school's case the teachers refused to administer the questionnaires to any pupils on the grounds that they would breach their confidentiality. Nowadays all educational research projects must follow strict ethical guidelines, and must allow experimental subjects to opt out of any study if they so wish.

Five Secondary schools participated in the evaluation part of the Project. These were Mount Waverley Secondary College (Japanese, German), Monash S. C. (Japanese, German), Patterson River S. C. (German, Indonesian), Mordialloc-Chelsea S. C. (Japanese, French) and Parkdale S.C. (Japanese, French).

The majority of LOTE teachers in Year 7 collaborated by administering the questionnaires which were prepared for use in this part of the study, and they also rated the students on their motivation, on their overall LOTE attainment, on their speaking ability and on their writing ability in the LOTE.

In the data that follows, the pupils who had studied Esperanto in Primary school are referred to as the Esperanto pupils. Their scores are compared with those of all the other pupils in our sample, irrespective of which LOTE they were now studying, and irrespective also of the primary schools they attended or the secondary schools they are now attending. The numbers of pupils varies due to missing data from the teachers, and the tables therefore show percentage data.

Motivation for LOTE

This was rated by teachers on a five point scale from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).

There were 21 Esperanto pupils rated on this scale out of total of 306 pupils rated on this variable. Converting the figures to percentages, the following table shows the distribution for the Esperanto, non-Esperanto and total number of pupils.

Motivation for LOTE (percentages)
RATING(1 - 5) ESPERANTO NON-ESPERANTO TOTAL
5193130
4672427
3102222
2599
101312

This is clearly a very impressive outcome for the Esperanto pupils. None were in the lowest category, and indeed the figure in the 2nd category represents only one pupil. Thus all but one were rated by the teachers as 3, 4 or 5. In percentage terms 86% of the Esperanto pupils were rated 4 or 5, compared with only 55% of the non-Esperanto pupils.

This is not just important from a numerical point of view, but in our view it is crucially important from the learning perspective. If Esperanto in the Primary schools can help improve the motivation of the pupils for language study in the Secondary schools it will already have proved to be of value. One really feels sad for the 64 non-Esperanto pupils rated as either 1 or 2 on this scale by their teachers, who had no opportunity to benefit motivationally from a good introduction to language study via Esperanto, and therefore no real opportunity to participate successfully in LOTE at secondary school.

LOTE attainment level

The teachers were then asked to rate the pupils' attainment level in their LOTE on a five point scale. There were 23 Esperanto students rated on this scale out of a total of 334 pupils. The percentages at different levels are shown below.

LOTE attainment level (percentages)
RATING(1 - 5) ESPERANTO NON-ESPERANTO TOTAL
593230
4612628
3262323
2499
10109

Once again the result is an impressive one for the Esperanto pupils, as 96% of them rated 3,4 or 5, compared with 81% of the non-Esperanto pupils. Once again there was only one Esperanto pupil who rated less than 3.

LOTE speaking ability

The third aspect of pupils' performance rated by the teachers was their LOTE speaking ability. (There was insufficient data to analyse their writing ability because one of the Japanese teachers decided that it was inappropriate to test this so early.) However there is good reason to think that at this stage in their LOTE learning the pupils' speaking ability is in any case a far more important skill to develop.

There were 21 Esperanto students rated by the teachers on this scale out of a total number of 283, and the percentages are shown below.

LOTE speaking ability (percentages)
RATING(1 - 5) ESPERANTO NON-ESPERANTO TOTAL
5 10 6 6
4 43 27 29
3 48 46 46
2 0 8 8
1 0 12 11

This aspect of attainment is a most interesting one. The comparison is striking in that no Esperanto pupil rated less than 3 in this skill. That Esperanto is an easy and regular language to speak must surely have increased the pupils' confidence in speaking their LOTE.

The final part of the analysis of the questionnaire data has yet to be completed. This analysis will concern the students about whom we have complete data from both their primary schools and their secondary schools. It is intended to provide more detail to help with interpreting the quantitative data presented above, and will be analysed on a case-by-case basis, because of all the extraneous variables involved. For this part of the analysis, we will be investigating the data from 21 Esperanto students and 29 non-Esperanto pupils.

Comments on the results of the secondary analysis

As has been said above, the results for the Esperanto learners have been most impressive. There was no selection of special students for either teaching or assessing purposes, there was no special bias towards Esperanto in the questionnaires, the secondary teachers did not know from us which of their students had studied Esperanto, and we have not been selective in our analysis or reporting of the results.

In fact all of us involved in the project have been surprised by the results achieved by the Esperanto learners. We initially thought that there were just individually interesting results, but the important thing is that there is an understandable amount of consistency in the findings throughout the two evaluative years. This consistency gives the confidence to claim that the findings are not spurious but are genuine. Of course the numbers involved in the final analyses are small and although the significance tests where applied were appropriate, it is possible to explain the findings by the fact that it was an experimental project with all the 'special' qualities that that brings with it. Such is always the case with experimental projects.

8. Issues with this kind of evaluative research

The following comments are made on the basis of what was done in the EKPAROLI project, and the hope that those who wish to do similar research with Esperanto, or with other LOTEs can profit from this project. Of course there is also an extensive literature on educational project evaluations with which we are also familiar and which echoes many of the points made below.

(a) The project was based in the real world of schools

We decided from the start to undertake the project in the 'real world' of existing school programs, with all the political, administrative and organisational issues involved. This was in our view a crucial choice, as we felt that the study would have little impact on practising professionals' thinking if it were done in an 'ivory tower' setting away from the real world of classroom teaching.

It is not just teachers who think practically, but anyone involved in the business of education these days has to be practically concerned about resources, facilities, materials, support, and of course the politics of educational possibility and accountability. In the early phases of the project we had to do a great deal of preparatory work on the current school situation, as well as a great deal of lobbying, persuading and 'politicking'. In the changing framework of school education in Victoria that was very difficult and time-consuming, but we were certainly helped by the fact that we were able to base the project at a prestigious university like Monash.

(b) The project was based in government schools

A second point, which relates to the first, is that we chose to do the research in the government school system rather than in any private or independent school situation. It meant that we were dealing with children and teachers neither of whom had been especially chosen for their linguistic or other abilities. It meant that the resources available were those that one would normally find in government schools. It also meant that the classroom teaching was subject to the normal extraneous events which shape government schooling, such as assessments, health checks, reporting and accountability procedures etc.

We were however helped by the timing of the government's requirement that all primary schools should teach a LOTE, a development for which the government should take credit. It was clearly an opportune time to begin a project of this nature. However it also needs to be said that locating a project like this in the real world of government schooling brings with it several problems. The time for teaching Esperanto was not ideal, the teachers were only partially trained, the resources were not ideal, and some parents and teachers were not necessarily in favour of being involved in an Esperanto project. Their objections and concerns were however usually based on limited knowledge about the language and its value as a propaedeutic tool. Whether these problems would have existed in an independent situation is impossible to say, of course.

(c) The project developed and used consistent teaching materials

It may have seemed initially that to be in a situation where there were no suitable teaching materials was a distinct disadvantage. However the issue of teaching materials in the context of a research project is a complex one, particularly if one is operating in the real live school situation. From the research perspective it is material consistency which is desirable. In this case we were able to use the situation to our advantage and by producing the materials ourselves we could create the uniformity and consistency from the start.

However the other point to note is that we had no control at all over the teaching materials being used by the other LOTE teachers in Japanese, German and Indonesian. In that sense any differences found in the performances of the students may well have been influenced by the differences in teaching materials used.

(d) The project involved inexperienced LOTE teachers

Once again it might have been a disadvantage to have been working with teachers who were inexperienced with LOTE teaching. Only 2 of the Esperanto teachers had ever studied a foreign language, and several of them confessed that they were rather nervous of teaching Esperanto at first. However from the point of view of the project team this situation was itself important because it meant that it would be a good test of Esperanto's benefits if the children could succeed by learning from relatively inexperienced teachers.

As can be seen from the primary teachers' questionnaire results, the Esperanto teachers certainly did not feel unhappy about their task by the end of the year. Crucial to that point however was the fact that Jennifer Bishop did give considerable support to the teachers throughout the year via her teaching and via the regular network meetings.

(e) The project evaluated attitudes and opinions as well as performance

We considered it most important to be assessing more than just LOTE performance. Of course in any language teaching it is important to know if, and how well, the children are learning the language. However in this project we were conscious that one of the important potential benefits of early Esperanto teaching would be in helping the children to develop positive attitudes to LOTE study, to appreciate the values and importance of LOTE study, and to lay good affective foundations for the later LOTE study in secondary school. As one of the secondary teachers said in her questionnaire "I am not so interested in which LOTE they have studied as long as they have enjoyed it and want to study more!"

Therefore the project relied heavily on specially constructed attitude and opinion questionnaires for both teachers and pupils. No formal language tests were given for comparative purposes, although all the teachers used tests and other assessments in the course of their normal teaching.

(f) The project used teacher assessments and ratings

Comparative evaluation research is complex and often there are common tests used to try to discover differences in student performance. It is extremely difficult to do this successfully in language studies because of the differences between languages. In this study it would have been particularly difficult because the Esperanto students would have mastered far more written and spoken material than any of their counterparts in the other language groups.

Therefore, in line with the project's philosophy to be working in the 'real world' of the schools, we used instead the teachers' ratings and reports of student performance and attitudes. The teachers in our sample were well used to rating their students' performances, and although one can always find some teachers who mark harder than others for example, we felt that for the authenticity of the project it was important to stay with whatever ratings the teachers gave. Thus there was no attempt at any kind of standardisation of ratings across the teachers.

9. In conclusion

This then concludes our report on the EKPAROLI project for mid-1997. As has been seen the results have been extremely encouraging for Esperanto supporters, both in terms of the primary school teaching situation and the secondary school situation. The real-life setting of the project has brought several problems but also considerable benefits, and those readers evaluating this report with a critical eye should keep these aspects fully in mind.

From the purely research perspective there is every reason for governments, primary school principals and teachers, and parents to look very seriously at these results which show the potential benefits to the students of early Esperanto study in the primary school. We all learn a second language in a different way from the way we learn our first language, and if the government policy of requiring LOTE study in primary schools is to succeed, then the choice of that first LOTE is crucial. It is likely that with parental choice of schools becoming more and more influential, the majority of primary school leavers will progress to a secondary school which will be teaching a different LOTE from the one they studied in primary school.

According to the research in the EKPAROLI project, Esperanto meets all these criteria better than the other languages in the study.

*************************

july 1997


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