BICS is a bi-lingual school. No one can doubt that the possession of several languages is a great advantage, giving a head start for the future. Based in the capital of Europe, our school has opted for English and French. All of our teachers are qualified native English and French speakers.
In the Primary department the approach is the following: firstly a choice is made regarding the language in which a child will learn to read and write. Normally this will be French, given that this language is phonetic, and its interior logic helps to structure the child’s mind. During the first year of Primary school, the child will therefore continue to learn English orally.
A child who has followed our Primary school curriculum will be fully fluent by the end of his sixth year and should have a working knowledge after only one year. Specialist teachers in English (EFL) and French (FLE) offer necessary support to those children arriving without French or English. In the Secondary school we have slightly different approach. This department is more English based. The school is an accredited Cambridge University Examinations test centre, and as such offers the Cambridge International GCSE and A level curriculum. These qualifications are recognised internationally offering access to Higher Education in Belgium and throughout the world.
We are often asked how this works out in practice. In the Pre-primary department the week is divided between two teachers, one English-speaking and the other French-speaking. At this level, communication and learning are mainly oral, and the children naturally come to associate the teacher with the language spoken. The week is divided into two parts, English on Mondays and Tuesdays, French on Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays divided into both. In this way, the child benefits from a full immersion into both languages. In the Primary department, students are taught in English and French on alternate days. This enables a 50-50% immersion in both languages.
The curriculum followed in the Primary department is based upon a Belgian programme for the French speaking part and the Cambridge Primary Programme the English speaking part. At the end of their six years of Primary school, pupils can take the Belgian ‘Examen Cantonal’, which is exterior to the school and obtains a diploma giving access to all Belgian and European Secondary schools (CEB – Certificat d’Etude de Base). Children who follow our curriculum have no difficulty integrating into other English-speaking, French and international schools. We understand the importance of this, as parents may, for professional reasons, need to move after three or four years.
Can my child adapt to your programme as he/ she speaks neither English or French ?
In the Pre-primary and first year Primary department this poses no difficulty. Specialist support is given in the school, and we will assess whether extra tutoring is required outside school hours.
When will my child be fluent in both languages ?
Our experience shows that after one year a normally gifted child will be able to work in the language that is new to him or her. Total fluency can be expected at the end of the Primary school.
Do the children mix up the two languages ?
We take extreme care in our teaching methods. Children have a great capacity to assimilate several languages at a very early age. In our school we insist upon teachers using one language even if they may themselves know several. In this way pupils naturally associate the person and the language. Equally it is important to begin reading and writing in just one language (in the first year of Primary school). This avoids confusion. Obviously in the following years the second language will also be read and written.
Are other subjects taught in different languages ?
At BICS we have decided that in the Primary school mathematics is taught in English, while science, history and geography are taught in French.
Are your exams officially recognised ?
Our school is a Cambridge International School, and as such offers the Cambridge Primary Programme (CPP) exams and the Cambridge International exams (CIE). We are an accredited Test centre. These exams are recognised and satisfy the educational obligation in Belgium and throughout the world. In the Primary school, it is possible for children to sit the Belgian ‘Examen Cantonale’ which evaluates children at the end of Primary school education and obtains a diploma ( CEB- Certificat d’Etude de Base) giving access to all Belgian Secondary schools. In the Secondary school we offer the International GCSE and ‘A’ levels. In september 2015 the school opened the A level curriculum.