Six Subject Survey: French as a Foreign Language

The IEA Study of French as a Foreign Language assessed performance in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The study also investigated factors associated with the learning of French as a foreign language.

Two types of writing tests were used. The first could be reliably scored, being of an objective or quasi-objective nature. The second involved directed composition. Background information was collected through student, teacher, and school questionnaires. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, which also investigated achievement in civic educationEnglish as a foreign languageliterature educationreading comprehension, and science. The data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target population

The target populations were 14-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating education systems

Chile, England, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Scotland, Sweden, and United States.

Key findings

In all four fields of performance (reading, listening, speaking, and writing), there was a strong relationship between a country's level achievement and the average number of years its students had studied French. Students' aspiration to understand spoken French contributed more to their listening achievement than to their reading achievement. Aspiration to learn to read French contributed more to reading scores than to listening scores.

Time spent on homework had an influence on reading scores, but much less effect on listening scores, which were only indirectly influenced by the amount of homework given. Classroom activities were much more important for listening. Students achieved higher scores when French was used for a substantial part of the time in the classroom, and when the use of the mother tongue was reduced but not eliminated.

Neither the amount of university training nor the amount of travel or residence in a French-speaking country by the teacher led to any differences in students' French achievement.

General proficiency in learning French was strongly related to performance on a word knowledge test in the student's mother tongue, which was used as a measure of verbal ability.

Major publications

Bloom, B.S. (1969). Cross-national study of educational attainment: Stage I of the I.E.A. investigation in six subject areas (Vols. 1–2). Washington, DC: Office of Education (DHEW).

Carroll, J.B. (1975). The teaching of French as a foreign language in eight countries. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Passow, A.H., Noah, H.J., Eckstein, M.A., & Mallea, J.R. (1976). The national case study: An empirical comparative study of twenty-one educational systems. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Peaker, G.F. (1975). An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries: A technical report. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Walker, D.A. (1976). The IEA Six Subject Survey: An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.