Education is the foundation of the well-being and success in an individual’s life. The educational institutions have the responsible on their shoulders to provide the best ambiance and facilities for every student, so that he or she is able to learn the academic lessons in the best possible way. It is the onus of the academicians and authorities to find the right mode of communicative techniques that would reach out to the students with full impetus. As such, with the globalization of education- something that includes classes with students from different communities, the challenge of teaching the lessons neutralizing the effects of language and culture is a major challenge for the teachers as well as the institutional authorities.
One has to understand that schools provide the children with knowledge and literacy when the lessons are taught in their primary language. This knowledge that the students receive through their first language aids the process of hearing and reading English language more comprehensible for them. The literacy that gets developed in the primary language then transfers to the second language. It is very essential to understand that literacy development that goes on to characterize good bilingual programs combined with first language subject matter aid in the process of English proficiency that is very essential for success of the students.
One has to comprehend that bilingual education is the classic example of an experiment that aims the betterment of education and has humanitarian intentions. During the mid-1960s, when the African-American civil rights movement was at its zenith with the Latinos raising the concern about the high proportion of school-dropouts among non-English speaking students. They urged the governance to take necessary steps to address the matter. “In 1968 Congress approved a bill filed by Senator Ralph Yarborough, of Texas, aimed at removing the language barrier to an equal education.” (Porter)
Bilingual education is very important for students who hail from non-English speaking nations. The major characteristic of best bilingual education would include ESL instruction, instruction in the first language, sheltered subject matter training process. In bilingual education, the non-English-speaking students get the initial core instructions in their primary language apart from the ESL instruction. Thus, with time, as these students become more proficient in the English language, they get to learn more contextualized language in the sheltered classes that are communicated to the students in English language. Thus, the sheltered classes serve the purpose of the bridge between the mainstream and instruction given in first language.
In the advanced level of studies, the subjects that are taught in the first language are the ones that demand the most abstract usage of language. Once the process of mainstreaming reaches its completion, the option of advanced language development becomes available. “Gradual exit plans, such as these, avoid problems associated with exiting children too early (before the English they encounter is comprehensible) and provide instruction in the first language where it is most needed. These plans also allow children to have the advantages of advanced first language development.” (Krashen)
Hence, it is very important to enhance the level of bilingual education in the educational institutions. On has to comprehend the fact that free voluntary reading can play a key role in helping the components of bilingual education. One area is concern is that the non-English speaking students have a hard time in finding text books that would facilitate their mode of studying. (Krashen)
The importance of bilingual education has to be understood. English is no doubt the global language that has come up to be omniscient. English is a language that is very essential to be known for any student in the present day scenario of academic practice in the world. Students of a non-English speaking nation cannot be expected to be proficient like the people from English speaking nations or communities. Students who have a different mother tongue than English need to learn the language from a tender age at school. But, this is not like natural mother tongue acquisition for them. Hence, initially such students are most proficient in their mother tongue or first language only.
Bilingual education can be seen as a way to have enriched experiences. The students can be made to see the world in a new way altogether. Bilingual education is associated with reduced rates of dementia. Students who are multilingual in nature are taken to be more intelligent in nature and more educated. Apart from this, these people have a better chance to prosper in their career as they finally end up being proficient in more languages.
There is a perspective that the majority of people are against bilingual education. However, this is surely the result of the way the question is placed before people. “Porter (1990), for example, states that "Many parents are not committed to having the schools maintain the mother tongue if it is at the expense of gaining a sound education and the English-language skills needed for obtaining jobs or pursuing higher education" (p. 8).” (Karshen) People would never want to support the inclusion of mother tongue if it occludes the way of betterment in life for the wards.
When the respondents are only enquired if they support bilingual education of not, their opinion is in favor of bilingual education. “From 60-99 percent of samples of parents and teachers say they support bilingual education.” (Karshen) Shin conducted a study that stated that many of the respondents support the idea that first language of a student can be helpful in the process of providing the background knowledge.
Most of the people support the concept of bilingual education. While publications support the concept of bilingual education, majority of newspapers and magazines speak against it. Thus, the media plays a major role in shaping people’s opinion about bilingual opinion. The influence of the newspapers and magazines cannot be ignored.
People who do not support bilingual education opine about the futility of supporting and preserving the indigenous and minority languages. They opine that bilingual education goes on to waste the valuable resources that could have been channelized toward some other cause. “Some even see maintaining another language as seditious, a compromise to national security, or at the very least, evidence of conflicted loyalties or identities, or that a person cannot be fully trusted.” (Strauss)
Erika Hoff’s work that focuses on second language exposure is quite a revelation that proves that bilingual education is good. “She compared Spanish-speaking immigrants to the USA who spoke Spanish to their children with those who spoken mostly English to them.” (Strauss) the children who spoke English back at home did not fare too well in the standardized tests. However, the children who spoke with their parents in Spanish were better in results and were proficient in both the languages. Apart from this, there is evidence that prove the fact that reading ability transfers from Chinese to English, from Vietnamese to English, from Japanese to English, and from Turkish to Dutch. “In other words, those who read well in one language, read well in the second language (as long as length of residence in the country is taken into account because of the first language loss that is common).” (Krashen)
One has to comprehend the fact that as the minority language speaking people are increasing in number all over the world, the students who get the lessons to speak more than one language would surely have better opportunities of getting jobs. Just like the Spanish speaking population, the Chinese population is also on the rise all over, just like the Hindi speaking people. Thus, there is always a preference given to the people who are proficient in more than one language. It has to be taken into consideration that a young child is more open to learn new languages and concepts. According to the language experts, the younger years are the best ones to learn new language.
Apart from this, once a student has started the process of learning a second language, it becomes much easier for such an individual to learn more languages. Also, bilingual education enhances the ability of the student to learn new tasks, and it also increases the concentration level. “Studies show that bilingual education leads to increased brain growth and an increase in the person’s ability to handle multiple tasks at once.” (Occupy Theory) The children who are capable of communicating with a number of cultures and communities with fluency are the ones who have a better scope of betterment in life.
Bilingual education is one of the most effective ways of enhancing the working memory of the children. The studies have shown how the children showing the capability of handling the learning process of a second language have more ability of processing new sounds. Moreover, students who get bilingual education are less likely to have personality disorders. Such individuals are less lonely than the students who can speak only one language. “Their overall aggression level is also reduced and their ability to reason logically experiences a significant boost. They externalize their anger at a much less frequent rate and less likely to get into arguments with their peers.” (Occupy Theory)
Although many skeptics opine that bilingual education confuse the young students, studies have a different perspective. The studies prove the fact that learning a second language goes on to increase the functioning of the mind and also provides a brighter future to the student. Thus, it becomes easier for the students to comprehend and relate to various other cultures.
A student who succeeds in grasping a second or third language is obviously more cultured in his outlook toward life. This also gives a better opportunity to the students for studying abroad. Such students would have more advantage over the students who can only speak or write one language. One has to understand that learning a second language provides a gateway to very positive interaction with people belonging to other racial identity. This, in turn, leads to a better personal growth and societal skills of the students.
On the other hand, the cons of bilingual education are propagated by the skeptics. Bilingual education is taken to be very costly. Running any program in the dominant language is more convenient for the authorities of the schools. Apart from this, expenditure on bilingual education takes away the money from programs that these schools are focused on. Also, one of the most common criticisms against bilingual education opines that the process impedes the total assimilation of the foreign students into the culture of the society they currently dwell in.
It is opined that these foreign students need to sacrifice their culture and language if they wish to learn English. The people against bilingual education say that making students learn more than one language works to widen the cultural gulf, instead of bridging it. Moreover, it is opined by the opposing people that bilingual education has negative effect on career aspiration of the child.
“Teaching a child to be bilingual is an extremely time consuming pursuit and one that can cause a great deal of frustration for both the teacher and the student alike. If a child becomes frustrated with learning, this attitude can spill over into how they relate to other subjects.” (Occupy Theory) While some of the children are very responsive to learning the second language, other are not so. Hence, the skeptics opine that there is no point in going for an option that cannot be holistically beneficial to the student community.
Another major issue that has to be taken into account is that there is lack of well-qualified teachers who can be helpful to the students. The students need someone who is an expert, and would be extremely patient in his or her approach. However, such teachers are very small in number, and they are engaged in teaching other subjects also. Thus, there seems to be quite a number of reasons or conjectures that try to argue that bilingual education is not a practical option.
“In one of the world's poorest countries, a model of bilingual education is emerging that could have a substantial effect on the nation.” (Brion) One needs to understand that the sub-Saharan Burkina Faso has seen high rate of illiteracy and dropout rates from school from the time of gaining independence from France over 50 years ago in 1960. According to the scholars, the problem has its roots in the lack of culturally appropriate education. Some of the scholars have suggested that bilingual education would prove to be a viable solution to the problem.
The Burkinabe government and local NGOs have started a program that is known as Bilingual Indigenous Community Education. This program’s ambition is to instruct the students in both their native language and the national language of the country that is French. The success of the program proves that bilingual education plays a pivotal role in the betterment of students. (Brion)
In the age of global intertwining of culture and communities, a major number of parents are turning toward language immersion programs for their preschoolers whom they wish to see exceling in life. “Some are motivated by the desire to preserve family heritage and culture. Others see early language instruction as a way to provide their children with academic and cognitive advantages.” (Intrabartola)
Figueras-Daniel who is a research project coordinator for the National Institute for Early Education Research at the Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education has gauged the positive impact of bilingual education on the preschoolers. The researcher went on to find that “early exposure to a second language enhances cognitive abilities, such as self-regulation skills.” (Intrabartola) Moreover, bilingual education also serves the purpose of preserving the family heritage that is an integral part of a person’s identity. The obvious positive effect of bilingual education is academic advantage.
The education system that denies the chance of bilingual education might be described as culturally hegemonic in nature. The predominance of one language in the school might exclude many students from understanding the lessons properly. The students who are not proficient in the dominant language need the time to adjust to the medium of learning. Thus, it is most helpful for them if they are instructed in their native language. There has to be a proper bridge that neutralizes the gap between the two languages that can work as a medium of teaching.
In a school where there are no foreign students or students who have a native tongue different from the dominant language of the society, the students can benefit equally from bilingual education. Such students would get the opportunity to learn more than just one language in their classes. This would enhance their linguistic skills, and would be beneficial in their future life and career. Hence, bilingual education is the best option of one and all.
Thus, there is more than one reason to come out in support of bilingual education. There would be negative perspective and opinion regarding the utility of bilingual education. However, one has to gauge the positives of teaching the students more than one language. The students whose native language is English would get to learn another language that would only work to enhance the academic qualification and skills of the students who are provided with proper bilingual education.
Apart from this, the students who belong to the minority community or are foreign students would also be benefitted by a great degree if they are provided with bilingual education. Such students need to be given the perfect opportunity to learn in the language that they are comfortable in studying. They should be given the right amount of time to cope with the ambiance of learning in English. The native tongue would play the perfect role of teaching the things to the students with ease. Then, they can feel at ease with the subject. English or the other dominant language should be introduced to them as the medium of instruction after they are comfortable in the new ambiance.
Brion, Corinne. “Two Languages Are Better Than One: Bilingual Education Could Improve
Education Outcomes in One of the World's Poorest Nations.” In Questia. Questia.com, n.d. Web. 29 April 2015.
Intrabartola, Lisa. “Bilingual Education Can Start Preschoolers on Path to Success.” In Rutgers.
News.rutgers.edu, 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 29 April 2015.
Krashen, Stephen. “The Pros of Bilingual Education.” In education.com. education.com, 8 Dec.
2010. Web. 29 April 2015.
“List of Pros and Cons of Bilingual Education.” In Occupy Theory. Occupytheory.com, 18 Jan.
2015. Web. 29 April 2015.
Porter, Rosalie Pedalino. “The Case Against Bilingual Education.” In The Atlantic.
Theatlantic.com, May 1998. Web. 29 April 2015.
Strauss, Valerie. “Why is bilingual education ‘good’ for rich kids but ‘bad’ for poor, immigrant