ISA Language Policy

ISA Language Policy

IB Standard and Practices

The following standards and practices from IB has been our guiding post in formulating our Language Policy:

Standard A: The school places importance on language learning, including mother tongue, host country language and other languages.

Standard B1: The school has developed and implements a language policy that is consistent with IB expectations.

Standard C1: Collaborative planning and reflection recognizes that all teachers are responsible for language development of students.

Standard C3,7: Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students learning in a language(s) other than mother tongue.

Standard C3,8: Teaching and learning demonstrates that all teachers are responsible for language development of students.


The ISA students are native speakers of two languages Russian and Kazakh. A considerable number of them come from homes in which two or more languages are spoken regularly.

The Command of English, which is the official language of instruction, amongst these students ranges from nil to near- native fluency.

In general, there is a greater degree of proficiency in English amongst older students. The school is located in a Russian/Kazakh-speaking area of Kazakhstan.

ISA Language Philosophy

Our fundamental beliefs about language:

  • At ISA it is acknowledged that language is the chief vehicle for trans- disciplinary learning and for learning about how language works.
  • We view the range of languages within our school as an opportunity which allows us to reflect and celebrate the multilingual society we live in.
  • language is a means of communication
  • language is a means of developing and appreciating one’s and other people’s national and cultural identity
  • language is a powerful tool and as such it should be used with care, respect and sensitivity
  • language supports and enhances thinking, cognitive development and communication
  • language helps learners construct meaning
  • language is a powerful tool for academic success since the learning process involves learning language, learning about language and learning through language
  • language learning is effective only if it is relevant, engaging, challenging and significant – happens in a real and meaningful context
  • a balanced programme for teaching languages should provide for the development of all language skills in an interconnected manner and in the meaningful context (of the school’s curriculum)
  • mother-tongue development determines academic achievement, including acquisition of other languages
  • language learning process is a series of developmental stages (continuums)
  • acquisition of more than one language enriches personal development and helps facilitate international-mindedness
  • bilingualism, multilingualism, polilingualism are characteristic of a truly internationally-minded person
  • multilingualism and polilingualism can be set as a goal at ISA but in fact bilingualism or trilingualism would be a more realistic achievement in most cases
  • language is a vehicle for ISA students to engage with the world and access oversees university education
  • effective language instruction at ISA should support the students in working towards achieving their personal and educational goals

Our fundamental beliefs about language acquisition:

  • In order to learn languages effectively, it is necessary to display all the characteristics of the IB Learner Profile (inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, caring, risk-takers, open-minded, balanced, reflective)
  • The student’s competence in mother tongue(s) /first language(s) is a very important factor in facilitating acquisition of another language
  • Even though it is true that the more languages you know the easier it becomes to learn another one, the theory that “the more languages you introduce in the earlier stage of education, the better” is a myth in the environment where these languages are not really used in the school and/or local community– students should learn languages in a meaningful, authentic context to become competent
  • Linguists and second language practitioners accept the concept that bilingualism is enabling rather than disabling and, again, many would easily argue the same for trilingualism. It is necessary however, to remember that motivation, feelings toward the target language and culture, and learning style greatly impact upon another language acquisition
  • There are some important variables impacting the second language acquisition of the learners. Some of them include: the level and quality of proficiency one has in their primary language, language aptitude, age, motivation, and how comfortable one feels in the immersion environment
  • Even though younger learners may be able to pronounce the sounds of a new language with little or no accent and be able to perform developmentally-appropriate tasks which make it appear that they are more effective learners, older students are actually more efficient language learners since they are cognitively mature in their first language(s)
  • There are many similarities between the first and another language acquisition process so being competent in one’s first language(s), helps in becoming competent in another language.
  • Language acquisition is not linear, sequential or uniform so another language teachers need to utilize the same kinds of instructional approaches for multi-level students as classroom teachers must; namely, differentiation, cooperative learning, process and developmental literacy strategies, and performance assessments.
  • There are many differences in how various learners acquire their competence in another language – differentiated approach is essential to cater for these differences
  • Making mistakes is an essential part of another language acquisition process, and another language learners must feel free to approximate increasingly-complex structures. As their proficiency increases, the number of errors decreases. Their use of their first language(s) can only interfere with pronunciation development in another language. Other mistakes and errors are developmental in nature and do not stem from the transfer from the learner’s first language.
  • It is not necessary to be a native speaker of a language in order to be an effective teacher of or in the language. It is necessary, however, to have a proficient level of performance in the language.  Similarly, it is not necessary for ESL teachers to speak a language other than English though it can be very helpful!
  • All teachers are language learners, language users and language teachers!

ISA Language Profile

  • ISA is a Russian(predominantly) medium national school integrating two sets of standards – National Kazakh and International Baccalaureate (PYP and MYP).
  • ISA students are all Russian and/or Kazakh first language speakers of various ethnic and national backgrounds
  • ISA teachers are mostly local teachers – Russian and/or Kazakh first language speakers
  • There are some oversees teachers speaking English as their first or second language
  • There are four languages taught at ISA within the regular time table
  • Russian (official language in Kazakhstan, first language for vast majority of ISA students)
  • Kazakh (official language in Kazakhstan, first language for some ISA students)
  • English (foreign language)
  • French (language acquisition, second language chosen by students for e-Assessment)

 RUSSIAN is the primary language of instruction and communication at ISA

  • ENGLISH is another language of instruction. Most MYP subjects are delivered in English. However, others in both: Russian predominantly and English.
  • Whole-school staff meetings and most department meetings are held in RUSSIAN
  • Parent meeting, conferences and workshops are all held in RUSSIAN
  • The curriculum and policy documents at ISA are written in RUSSIAN and in ENGLISH
  • Information reports in primary school are completed in RUSSIAN but the templates are in RUSSIAN and ENGLISH (middle?)
  • All the displays at ISA are in RUSSIAN and/or ENGLISH (Kazakh?)


  • RUSSIAN is the language of instruction for all students
  • KAZAKH is taught as another language to all students
  • Kazakh is taught using inquiry based model, combining POI and National Standards
  • ENGLISH is taught as another language to all students
  • English is taught entirely in the context of POI, using inquiry based model, to get ISA students ready to use it as the language of instruction in MYP
  • English in primary is taught within the context of the school POI and EAL units are designed to support the POI. There are no official national requirements for teaching English in primary because according to the national standards, students start learning English in grade 5. (still a big issue)

 MYP and Grade 11 

  • RUSSIAN is a primary language of instruction and it is taught as Language and Literature
  • ENGLISH is another language of instruction
  • English Language and Literature - Language A
  • French – Language B
  • All ISA students e-Assessment in English and they complete their Personal Projects in English
  • There are very strict national exams at the end of Grade 9, where English is one of the subjects tested. Therefore, English in middle school is taught as Language A & B using course books, integrating the national and international requirements. Whenever appropriate and meaningful, it is integrated into the interdisciplinary projects.
  • KAZAKH – Language B
  • There are more and more oversees teachers employed at ISA (currently 4) and their presence provides a more genuine context for learning and using English at school
  • ISA teachers learn English on regular basis and they have been gradually using more and more English in their teaching (assessment tools, resources in English, etc)
  • There are many opportunities at ISA for the students to use ENGLISH out of classroom (School Radio, ISA Magazine, English Week, English Days, Theater Week, Seasonal Celebrations such as New Year, Nauryz, St. Valentine’s Day, etc)
  • The school does not provide any mother tongue classes for languages other than these mentioned above. However, some ISA students learn Korean, Turkish and some other languages, which are not their mother tongues but they are the languages of their ancestors. If there is any request from the parents to support learning other languages, ISA administration will seek opportunities to do so.


IBO documents

Rojas, Virginia P. (2006). A Hard Thing to Say:  Revisiting the Myths of Bilingualism. (available from ISA electronic folders – Language Policy Documents

International Baccalaureate. IB MYP Language Acquisition Guide. International Baccalaureate Organisation. 2014

International Baccalaureate. Programme Standards and Practices. Cardiff. International Baccalaureate Organisation. 2014

International Baccalaureate. IB PYP Language scope and sequence. Cardiff. International Baccalaureate Organisation. 2009


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