Family attitudes towards multilingualism in bilingual education programmes

This article reports on a large-scale study investigating the overall perception of multilingualism in the family environment of children enrolled in an English immersion programme in primary schools across Spain.

Father and 2 girls doing English homework and smiling

The British Council’s Bilingual Education Programme (BEP) started as a collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Education and ten Regional Governments and was originally based on the curriculum of the British Council School in Madrid. From its inception in 1996, the programme has grown to cover around 40,000 students across the country through 90 primary schools and 58 secondary schools. While the programme is now well established, there is little information about the families of pupils attending these schools, especially regarding their views and practices on multilingualism. This study sheds some light on the profiles of these families in Spain as well as exploring the potential relationship between attitudes and students' academic performance.

One thousand and one families participated in the study, based on a tailored questionnaire that evaluated three main aspects:

  1. parents’ and guardians’ ratings of their children’s language skills;
  2. language practices in the home, especially with respect to time allocated to different languages and multilingual practices such as code-switching; and
  3. attitudes and general perception of the benefits and drawbacks of multilingualism in socio-economic, cultural, cognitive and professional terms.

The complex results from this questionnaire, in addition to providing a more accurate picture of the family environment of students enrolled in these programmes, show some significant correlations with academic performance, which are discussed in the journal article, with some reference to their educational implications.

The study found that the way families felt about mixing languages (code-switching) was correlated with how well students do in school. This finding suggests that code-switching and language-mixing practices are a natural reality of multilingual communities and educators should promote the idea of students and teachers speaking multiple languages in lessons without negative consequences for learning and language outcomes.

Read the complete open access journal article:

González Alonso, J. and Duñabeitia, J.A. (2024) Family attitudes towards multilingualism in bilingual education programs and their relationship with academic performance. Behavioral Sciences. 2024; 14(1):6. Available at:

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight