31 SES 03 B, Aspects of Learning and Measuring Language Skills
In the 2015/2016 school term (ST), the students without Italian citizenship who were enrolled in primary schools in Italy were about 815,000, with an smaller increment compared to the previous year (+0.1% which corresponds to 653 new entries) and constitutes 9.2% of the whole scholar population. The data reflects the changes that have occurred in the immigration flow directed around Italy and all of Europe. Today our country sees the significant increase in unaccompanied foreign minors - only a minimal part of which attend high school/elementary school - and a decrease in the presence of pupils without Italian citizenship (-11,798 in the ST 15/16 compared to the past year).
An increase in the number of students with an immigrant background born in Italy who attend primary schools has been detected; today they are about 479,000 (ST 15-16) with an increment of 6.2% only in the last scholar year. They represent 58.7% of students without Italian citizenship (MIUR, 2017).
The structural presence of these children challenges the education system on many levels: that of identity, of secondary socialization, of educational practice. The second generations (2G) come across critical issues connected with integration, language, inclusion, identity, belonging and formative success. In all of these dimensions a crucial role has been made from the acquisition of the second language (Bettoni 2001). The 2G student results non-native on the plane of acquisition of the Italian language, and native compared to the conservation of the mother tongue (Bettoni 2006).
A 2G learner, in Italy, can find him/herself not only in contact with Italian as a second language (SL), characterized in the social and scholastic settings, but also with the presence of an Italian regional variety, a dialect, one or more varieties of ethnic language spoken in the family (Nitti 2017). Speaking of SL, within the 2G can seem reduced, because the mother tongue (L1) of the individuals, in these cases, can be shaped like an ethnic language (Calò 2015) and be characterized by a formative need of development, conservation and protection (Cummins 2000).
The research, in Italy, compared to the processes of inclusion, those of identity and of multilingualism (Marcato 2012; Nuzzo & Rastelli 2011) are several. However, the contributions directed primarily at the 2G have meager results (Orioles 2013; Dusi, Steinbach 2015; Dusi, 2017).
In the intent to understand better the processes in place, some researchers in the Department of Human Science of the Università degli Studi di Verona, have started a pathway of interdisciplinary research-action (sociology, psychology, education, language teaching, and linguistics) in collaboration with some teachers in service of the primary schools of Verona.
The project is aimed:
- To amplify the knowledge of the processes of the formation of identity and inclusion, with particular regard to the role played by the mother tongue and the language of the school;
- To locate, along with the teachers involved in the educative-didactical practices that promote the processes of inclusion of 2G children, their educational vocation and their process of learning;
- To implement the intercultural and linguistic skills of the teachers in service.
They have included teachers and parents, Italians and immigrants, from 4 comprehensive institutions of the peripheral neighborhoods of Verona (Veneto is the third most numerous region in Italy with non-Italian students between the branches of school that are equal at 11.3% of the scholastic population).
The present contribution analyzes and reflects on a part of the data gathered, across the administration of questionnaires addressed both to the teachers and the parented in the course of the first phase of the research action.
Next to the theoretic survey, the project, in its first phase, has intercepted the point of view of some teachers and parents of the 2G pupils, according to the processes of inclusion-instruction that their student-children have confronted. The project - like the adopted questionnaires and instruments - has obtained the favorable opinion of the Ethic Committee of the Università degli Studi di Verona, and it has been articulated on the base of some phases: a) For the teachers of the Rete Tante Tinte - a network of scholastic institutions of the city and of the province of Verona with functions of junction, organization and formation in relation to the multicultural nature of the scholar population - a filling out of the questionnaire was available on the platform Moodleext univr.it. The questionnaire for teachers provided 47 questions, subdivided in 5 sections: social and personal information, perceived situations and utilized resources, knowledge and experience in the field of SL education, the L1 significance, the perceived needs and discovered difficulties. Overall, out of 281 teachers in service, 59 informants have responded, grouped in 49% of the 51-60 year age range and 32% in the 41-50 range; b) Another questionnaire was conceived to consult the parents of 4 comprehensive institutions (1,308 students overall, of those 906 Italians and 402 foreigners) situated in the peripheral neighborhoods of the city of Verona, the last 5 items were equal for the Italian and foreign parents. The questionnaire used to collect the point of view of non-native parents providing another 33 items, subdivided into 2 sections, that focused the attention on the use, on the representation and on the practices related to the scholar participation and to multilingualism. The questionnaire was translated into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and available in Italian. In conclusion, the descriptive analysis was effectual from 695 questionnaires (57%) of which 494 (71%) derived from Italian parents and 201 (29%) from immigrant parents. This proposal shows the results of the descriptive analysis of some peculiar data, concerning the objective of the Conference.
The language we use gives roots to our identities, who we are, to our sense of belonging. The language is also the principal tool used in our schools to improve knowledge, comprehension, methods. What happens when the language used in the school and the L1 are different? How did parents and teachers face their sons’ and students’ multilingualism and plurilingualism? The teachers who participated to this research, with an average of 25 years of service, have assisted in the transformation of the scholar population that from a basically autochthonous composition became multiethnic. This has faced the necessity to revisit the representations and their educative-language learning modality. How have they reacted to the change? The responses to the questionnaire given by the teachers - particularly sensitive to the topic - outline a complex and, in some ways, disturbing scenario (40% of them believe that speaking the L1 at home inhibits the learning of the SL). For how much the parents of the 2G pupils are concerned, some linguistic-communicative difficulties emerge from the data, in regards to the relations with the school, and the central role of the Italian SL compared to the communication with their children. The choice of language can be considered, therefore, one of the most problematic factors within communication in the familiar contexts of 2G students. The protection of the L1 is one of the principal objectives of parents of 2G pupils, as much as it would allow a privileged mode for communication in the family and for the participation of the 2G individuals in the original cultural context.
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