Welsh Medium Education Revisited


    Although the Welsh language is recognised language of Wales, Welsh remains a minority language in Wales, which is only spoken fluently by 11% of the population, the the future of the language cannot be divorced from the 'hard facts' about the current state of the language. The future of the living Welsh language will be dictated by science.

    The issue about children being educated through the medium of Welsh has become a very political issue that is being debated by "Tom, Dicks and Mary's" in the street. The issue is a very deep professional one, because the language that children learn though is fundamental to their learning success. The choice of the language children learn through should not be considered as superficially as choosing the colour of the new car.

Language Fluency

    The most sacrosanct fact is that children will always learn more effectively in their most fluent language and the more fluent they become fluent in any language, the more effectively they will learn. This cannot be questioned. The research on this issue is secure.

     It is also clearly accepted that it takes around  10,000 hours to develop fluency in any language. It will take around five years for an average child to develop native like fluency in a new majority language. Welsh is a minority one. It is not all around learners. There are a range of distinct Welsh language dialects.

          Working memory is the gateway to all learning. There is a spread of seven years of working memory capacity at the age of seven, which is fixed. Most children will be around average. Children with low working memory capacity will find it extremely difficult to learn a new language and a subject content. It is the equivalent of trying to use a mobile phone whist driving. It will cause cognitive overload.

Children's Early Language Development

       There is growing secure evidence that children's early language development from birth has a profound influence on the development of literacy skills. Children early language development is grown in intensive face to face parent, sibling and family support from birth. Ideally this support should continue throughout their schooling. Parents cannot offer this to their children if they do not speak the language their child is being educated through.

       Children brought up in Welsh speaking families will always have a head start in Welsh medium education. It is known that many children in Welsh Medium schools speak English in the school yard and at hone. It is also known that many of the Welsh speaking youth do not view themselves as fluent proper Welsh speakers.

     English is one of the most difficult languages of the world. It is also the most useful. It is a world language and the academic language of the world. It is being learnt by children in South Korea, for instance.  Children being educated through the medium of Welsh will not be developing their English language skills across the curriculum.

      30% of children in the United Kingdom do not reach the desired standard of reading at 11 years of age. Children are increasingly failing to reach the 50,000 English word vocabulary needed for secondary education. Truly bilingual children have more limited vocabularies. The notion that Welsh speakers can live fulfilled, educated lives exclusively in the Welsh language is a myth, sadly it cannot happen.


        Whilst on the one hand in bilingualism each language does not reside in the brain independently, they are not totally interrelated either. If this was the case, then bilinguals language capabilities would be equal in each language. Leanne Woods has admitted she is not a fluent Welsh speaker.

         The brain is very plastic. 67% is the tipping point of a living language. Whilst children may enjoy that level of immersion in Welsh medium schools, unless they can enjoy that environment outside of school when they leave it, they will gradually lose their language capabilities. Many native speaking children who are educated through the medium of Welsh do so.

       It must be accepted that Welsh Medium schools offer more grammar school environments like environments for children, because the most socially deprived children will tend not to attend them. They do have a strong work ethic. The question remains that however well native English speaking children will do in them whether in pure terms children would have done better in English medium schools.

       There is the issue of how expecting children to be educated through the medium of Welsh prepares them for everyday life and higher education. Even if students are taught through the medium of Welsh in higher education, they will still need to read the academic English literature.

The Purpose of Welsh Medium Education

 Welsh medium education was not introduced in Wales to enable English speaking  children to learn Welsh. Children go to schools to be educated. Welsh medium education was introduced to enable children who were not sufficiently fluent in English to be able to educated more effectively.  


 The Welsh language has always been taught in Welsh school and it remain a integral part of the Welsh national identity and culture.  There is no reason the why the Welsh language should not survive in some form. All living language change over time. The Welsh language has got to change.  It has to be made more user friendly form to endure in the modern world. The notion that expecting all children to be educated through the medium of the Welsh will save the living Welsh language is a myth.

   The problem with all top-down evaluations of standards that there are whole range of variables that will influence children's school attainment. Whatever children achieve in school there is a potential for them to better. Intelligent children will always survive in educational system than those of lower intelligence.

 The value of Welsh medium education has never been researched by suitably qualified educationalists and authorities in their field. The answer the question lies outside Welsh education.  The research does exist.

 Wales is more than a language, it is people and our youth are facing a very uncertain future. Even Welsh medium education in its current form cannot unquestionably assumed are in Welsh speaking children interests.  No real Welsh person wants to see the living Welsh language die, but children's educational interest must come first. 

  Welsh and English parents naturally have high expectations for their children and they want them to have the best opportunities in life. 

Researched Evidence