The paradox of multilingual learners: A case study of CLIL in Flanders

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished abstract


Many schools struggle with the large influx of pupils who do not or only infrequently speak the instruction language at home. According to PISA, the Flemish region of Belgium is one of the regions where the academic achievement gap between native speakers and non-native speakers of Dutch is the largest (OECD, 2012). This contrasts with findings on content and language integrated learning (CLIL), where an extra instruction language, usually unknown to the pupils, is added to the curriculum. Many studies have found that CLIL learners either outperform or score equally well as their non-CLIL peers. The study we present is part of a larger project on CLIL in Flanders. In this study, we have analysed which schools opt for CLIL since its implementation in 2014. Our dataset is composed of aggregate data on student background characteristics of 961 secondary schools in Flanders. Correlational analyses on these background characteristics revealed a strong positive correlation between measures of socio-economic background and home language. We used a logistic regression model to investigate if student background characteristics could predict whether or not a school has chosen for CLIL. Crucially, only the educational attainment of the pupils’ mother could significantly predict whether or not the school offered a CLIL-programme, p < .01. These results indicate that the “white middle class” schools opt for CLIL, whereas the schools with multilingual pupils refrain from doing so. This seems to be pointing to a paradox in the way schools in Flanders perceive multilingualism. Yet, considering the results of CLIL, this does not have to be the case. Suggestions will be made to step away from this dual-track policy and to merge it into one holistic approach.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • CLIL
  • Bilingual education
  • Bilingualism


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