◊Bilingual education is the teaching of academic content by the use of two languages.
◊Historically, the use of this concept began in USA. According to records, it was first used by the Poles community. Later, it was sanctioned in the United States of America(USA) by the Bilingual Education Act(1968) and further reinforced by the Supreme Court in 1974 (Baker, C., 2008).
◊Today, it is used to help students who have a limited proficiency in English. They can be taught using their native vernaculars.
◊The use of bilingual education in US has been majorly as a result of a lot of pressure from the groups like the National Association of Bilingual Educated. This movement, formed in 1975 has been very instrumental in advocating for the use of this strategy in the US education system (Hakuta, K., 1986).
Models in bilingual education
◊The following models can be applied in an effective bilingual education:
- Dual language immersion bilingual education.
This strategy, if effectively used, can assist both the native and the non-native speakers of English to have bi-literacy and bilingual skills that can be used in their interactions within and out of their respective localities (Dutcher, N., and Tucker, G.R., 1994).
- Transitional bilingual education.
This involves the process of educating a child in their respective native languages for a period of at most three years. Then, they are introduced to the use of English language. Tactually, according to research, this is believed to instrumental in promoting a better understanding of social studies, sciences and mathematics.
- Late exit multilingual education.
◊This is a situation in which a child is using their native language for a long period of time. However, this is done alongside English. It is very instrumental in promoting literacy in the native language first, before the acquired knowledge is transferred to the second one.
◊It is arguably recommended because, many researches have proved that learning best takes place in one’s vernacular before such knowledge is transmitted in to the next language.
Bilingual education in USA
◊US is a monolingual society whose education majorly focuses on the use of English as the mode of instruction. In this regard, the use of bilingual education came to an end in the year 2001 when the congress terminated the Bilingual Education Act and replaced it with the ‘No Child is Left Behind’ policy (Kloss, H., 1977/1998).
◊Instead of focusing on the use of native languages, this legislation put a lot of emphasis on the use of English. Therefore, no more funds were released for bilingual education.
◊Later, the use of bilingual education system was gradually replaced by the more effective Structural English Immersion(SEI) (Cummins, J. & Genzuk, M., 1991).
◊Meanwhile, it is worth to note that the use of this ideology varies from state to state. For instance, according to official records from the department of education, in California, at least a third of all the school going children enroll in bilingual classes.
◊This kind of disapproval has made the opponents of this strategy accuse its proponents of propagating xenophobia and racism. This kind of controversy has made the use of bilingual mode of instruction become a major issue of concern in the entire US.
Arguments in favor of bilingual education
◊As already highlighted, many movements have been putting a lot of pressure on the Federal government of US to legislate in favor of this ideology. This is because, according to them, it is important in the following ways:
- It promotes ethnic heritage (Glenn, C. L. & LaLyre, I., 1991).
- It promotes the preservation of one’s culture and language
- It leads to bi-literacy by encouraging the understanding of the native language first.
- It is the most appropriate way of teaching the students who have a limited understanding of English language(Rossell, C. H., & Baker, K., 1996). Many researches have found out that the understanding of language is primary to the grasping the academic content being taught.
- It helps to create more diverse people in the society. Such people end up understanding and appreciating other people’s language, belief and cultural practices. This will eventually bring harmony in the world(Porter, R. P. (1990).
- It creates more opportunities to the learners. Those who understand more than one language may end up getting jobs in very many countries because they have the ability to communicate in diverse languages (Dean, B., 2004).
- It promotes self-esteem especially in bias societies like US. It gives one a sense of belonging, a notion that eventually improves interpersonal skills in the long run.
Arguments against bilingual education
◊The opponents of this school of thought have, over the years, shown a lot of disproval for it. This is because they feel it does not resolve anything in the American society. Precisely, claims are based on the fact that:
- It delays the pace of mastering the English language. This retards the learning of other subjects like mathematics (Krashen, S.D., 1999).
- It causes a massive confusion to these young and brilliant brains.
- It gives the minority speakers an ample opportunity to resist assimilation. This instills in them the spirit of conservative (Baldauf, R.B., 2005).
- It leads to stereotypic labels in the society. For instance, the bilingual students in US are usually perceived as uneducated poor immigrants. This fuels segregation in the society.
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Dean, B. (Ed.) (2004) Indigenous Education and the Prospects for Cultural Survival, Cultural Survival Quarterly, (27) 4.
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Kloss, Heinz (1977/1998). The American bilingual Tradition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
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