Introducing "SWALS"

SWALS are Students Without a Language Section corresponding to their dominant language; hence these students must enrol in the Anglophone, Francophone or German-speaking sections. EEBI accepts Slovenian students, but there are also Bulgarian, Romanian and Croatian SWALS who enrolled before the redistribution of the SWALS among the Brussels schools. In total SWALS represent less than four percent of EEBI students.

SWALS have L1 in their dominant language (i.e. Slovenian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Croatian) and most other subjects in the language of their section, which is considered their L2. SWALS are a diverse group with some of them spending their whole education in the European Schools and others joining later and/or only for few years.

SWALS face several issues particular to their situation, including:

  • limited exposure to their dominant language; their L1 is the only subject SWALS have in their dominant language;
  • sub-optimal timetables for SWALS L1 in secondary (same year classes split by section, reduced hours, vertical grouping);
  • conflicting timetables between SWALS L1 and optional subjects in upper secondary;
  • organisation of L2 in secondary;
  • educational support;
  • being assigned a secondary head teacher who doesn’t actually teach them.

The issue with organisation of L2 in secondary is linked to the SWALS' intensive exposure to and use of the language of their sections. Over time the section language becomes more of an additional dominant language than a “second” language. And while SWALS are immersed in FR/EN/DE L1 during primary, they are eventually placed in L2 classes in secondary. The learning objectives of L2 are neither sufficiently challenging nor motivating enough to develop the language competences that SWALS need for other subjects, including mathematics and science, which they study with students in their respective section. That notwithstanding, some SWALS, in particular those joining the school later, may need language educational support to be able to follow the curriculum.

The school’s decision to replace L2 bilingual classes with mixed-ability and enrichment classes has a negative impact on SWALS students, whose de facto dominant language is the language of the section.

See also: L2 Bilingual Classes

Last update: 11/09/2020