As anyone who uses Google knows, it was 200 years ago today that Charles Darwin was born. Charles Darwin may, or may not, become relevant to this post.
There was no mention of Darwin on this morning's BBC Breakfast news, but there was a feature about bilingual education. For the last 20 years there has been a steady increase in the numbers of pupils in the UK who are taught in Irish, Welsh, or Scots Gaelic. Devolution of powers from Westminster has meant increasing differentiation of education and has allowed schools to teach in any of these languages.
During the programme it was said that there is evidence that children who are brought up bilingual have higher IQs. The implication was that bilingualism increases IQ. As usual the BBC gives no evidence, nor can I find anything at all about the feature.
It may be true that a bilingual upbringing will increase IQ but there could well be other factors at work.
- Perhaps only intelligent children cope well enough to stay in bilingual education.
- Perhaps having a second language somehow helps children perforn well in IQ tests.
- Perhaps (and this is where Darwin may possibly come in) parents most likely to raise/educate their children bilingually are above average intelligence themselves, and their children would be intelligent regardless.
I'm absolutely sure knowing a second language is a huge benefit in many ways and I'm delighted that my as-yet-hypothetical grandchildren will be truly bilingual. I just wonder what the real evidence is that it causes a rise in IQ. Actually, I have all sorts of questions, such as
- What is the definition of bilingualism?
- Is there an age constraint on becoming bilingual?
- Are children brought up in England now at a grave disadvantage?