Bilingual Education

Our school systems play host to dozens of languages in addition to the standard fare of English. Starting in the late 1960s, partially as a swing off the Civil Rights Movement, school systems were required by law to provide bilingual education anytime twenty or more children spoke the same foreign language, and were found to be limited in their English proficiency. At first, the need for such programs was small, but over time it has been steadily increasing until now where the need has reached what many consider to be massive. In recent years, the population of the United States has exploded with many non-English speaking students, making the need for bilingual education more urgent. Although this amount is growing yearly, it is inadequate to provide the much needed instruction for this special subset of children. Bilingual education is a must if children are to succeed in the academic environment and in becoming productive adults.
Numerous researchers have reported a correlation between a students world experience and their level of reading comprehension. Often times stories and reading material are written from a largely white perspective and this results in less overall comprehension and poor reading scores especially for the Limited English Proficient student. Bilingual programs allow such children the opportunity to become acquainted with the concepts first in their own language and then in the predominant language of this country, English. Linguists have found that the strongest way to learn a language is to have a strong base in one’s native language. A child who has learned to write and read in the native language will build strong language skills. Statistics show that that the average language-minority child who is not given bilingual education is more likely to be held back one or more years in their elementary school education, and there is a direct correlation between the dropout rate, and non-receipt of bilingual education.

As with practically any academic pursuit, a students success or failure in reading comprehension is highly dependent it seems on their cultural background. On the language in which classroom materials are both written and spoken in, the students proficiency in both their first and second languages, and on the cultural content of the classroom materials. Likewise, a students attitude and motivation plays a very important part in their success in learning a second language. Students with more positive attitudes towards the people, and the culture they are being integrated into are more successful. In Richard Rodriguezs essay entitled ARIA, he explains What I needed to learn in school was that I had the right- and the obligation- to speak the public language of los gringos.(Rodriguez 531) When comfortable that they have the right to learn another language, students gain the positive attitude, as well as the self esteem that is so badly needed to succeed.

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Another unexpected source of support comes from Deborah Tannen in her essay entitled Conversational Styles. Americans are often proud that they discount the significance of cultural differences: We are all individuals, many people boast. Ignoring such issues as gender, and ethnicity becomes a source of pride: I treat everyone the same. But treating people the same is not equal treatment if they are not the same.(Tannen 549) By discounting the cultural differences such as language, students are not being treated as equals, as they are not being allowed to learn English. A perfect example of this is shown every day in the classroom when children slip into their desks, and pull out their English books.

Also, how much the student perceives the need of the new language can have a great impact on how willing they are to learn it. In terms of his own advancement in perhaps obtaining a job where it may be necessary to know English, or meeting some other goal, which is important to the student. If the student feels English would improve their quality of life, such as helping them to advance to college, get a better job, or perhaps a raise, it can help to increase their drive for learning. As well as helping them to function in a society that is predominately English speaking.

Although according to Gloria Anzaldua in her essay entitled How To Tame A Wild Tongue, They had a whole lifetime of being immersed in their native tongue; generations, centuries, in which Spanish was a first language, taught in school, heard on radio and TV, and read in the newspaper.(Anzaldua 542) Spanish speaking adults are now realizing that for students to succeed, or have a chance at a decent life it is important for them to learn English. By being supportive, and helpful, this also helps a student realize the importance of advancing in their knowledge.
Bilingual education is important from another perspective as well. It can be contended that it benefits our mainstream English-speaking students almost as much as it does Limited English Proficient students. The United States is somewhat unique in that it is more uncommon than common for a citizen to speak more than one language. In Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other countries just the opposite is true, most citizens speak more than one language.

Exposure to bilingual programs aids not only the Limited English Proficient student but also has the potential of being an advantage to the mainstream English-speaking student by providing contact with other cultures, and the incentive to perhaps learn their language as well.

The arguments surrounding both the cost of bilingual education, and its effectiveness are many, and varied. Those who oppose it claim that it simply delays a childs entry into the mainstream academic environment, and isolates them within a special group of students who are neither proficient in the English language nor, in many cases, their own. This may be true to an extent, however, to throw them into the mainstream academic environment without the advantage of bilingual education can also isolate them, and put labels on them. Many will be labeled dumb, and perhaps they will not be able to fit in, make friends, or may not even finish school.

Federally funded programs are often criticized for their failure to require that teachers themselves be proficient in English, or for devoting too much attention to non-English speakers at the expense of English speakers, and for overall being ineffective. Neither of these are accurate criticisms as Federal programs do have requirements that teachers be proficient in both the language they are instructing in, and English. And adequate programs are already in place for the mainstream student such as the special education classes to help slow students, and the speech therapy programs schools have to help students with the English they already know. However, little is available specifically for the Limited English Proficient child. Many schools in the United States do not even have a bilingual educational program set up.
The assertion that bilingual programs are ineffective is completely false. Bilingual instructional programs aid the Limited English Proficient Child in numerous ways, not the least of which is in instilling a greater level of reading comprehension, one of the highest determinants of a students academic success. No matter where a student lives, they are bound to need English at some point and time in their lives. If a student has the ability to read English, they have a better chance at learning how to speak it, and this will also help the student in the changing, growing world around them.

The availability of bilingual education programs, however, varies around the world, not just in the United States. Cultures differ in their expectations of students to learn the majority language. In Canada for example, minority languages are officially encouraged. In Israeli society, on the other hand, Israel imposes the majority language on all students. Israeli Jews, for example, are forced to learn to perform in a foreign language. Here in the United States, we are gradually realizing the importance of bilingual education, and are trying to make it more accessible to all students. Students, and parents should have the ability to choose, just as everyone else has.
To conclude, language goes hand-in-hand with culture, and a students success in learning a new language is directly dependent on their willingness to take on new cultural behaviors. A student who is well grounded in his or her own native language is much more likely to succeed in a largely English-speaking academic environment. Bilingual education programs give the student the opportunity, and the desire to become acquainted with a new culture and a new language. This makes them much more likely to succeed academically once they are out of school, and have taken their places as adults in society.
Education Essays

Bilingual Education

Bilingual Education Bilingual education programs have been implemented for decades. Non-English speaking students in bilingual education programs, however, have shown no academic or social improvement compared to similar students in English-only schools. The disadvantages of bilingual education programs outnumber the advantages. In addition, recent statistics suggest the need for reconstruction of the present bilingual education programs. Schools began teaching academics in languages other than English as early as the 1700s, but not until the 1960s did society recognize the hundreds of thousands of non-English speaking students struggling in the current system.

Before that time, immigrants were enrolled in non-English schools. The fight for a bilingual education program started during the Civil Rights Movement. Immigrants, especially Latin and Mexican Americans, observed the progress that African Americans were making and decided to fight for “equal education.” More than 50 percent of Spanish speaking students were dropping out of school each year. The schools found a definite need for intervention. In 1968, President Lyndon B.

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Johnson signed the Bilingual Education Act which provided federal assistance to school districts to develop bilingual education programs. Bilingual education programs were designed to teach non-English speaking students in their native language. Theoretically, with this kind of instruction, students test scores and college admittance would increase and lead to brighter career paths for students not proficient in English. Federal law was expanded in 1974 when the Equal Education Opportunity Act was signed in order to strengthen the rights of non-English speaking students. This act ruled that public schools must provide programs for students who speak little or no English. Rosalie Porter, author of “The Case Against Bilingual Education,” additionally points out that this was the first time that the Federal Government “dictated” how non-English speaking students should be educated (28).

With such government support, bilingual education looked like a program that would be the solution for the education of non-English speaking students. Erie 2 The bilingual education program has a noble purpose and worthwhile objectives. The purpose of the bilingual education program is to teach non-English speaking students in their native language, therefore improving their academic achievement and giving them more educational opportunities. Noted writer Brian Taylor author of “English for the Children,” points out the many objectives of the bilingual education program: the first objective is to teach students basic academic subjects in their native language therefore increasing their academic progress. The program was also designed to teach the students both reading and writing skills in their native language and eventually to immerse them into classes taught in English.

Students in bilingual education programs learn English from the time they enter school. All their academic classes, however, are taught in their native language. After three years of English instruction, students are put into English-only classes. The purpose of these objectives is to preserve the students culture at school (Taylor). As reported from “Education Week on the Web,” bilingual education programs are based on a maintenance program which preserves the students native language skills while teaching English as a second language (“Bilingual Education”). This program would make it easier for the student to learn English without risking success in academic classes.

Bilingual education programs sound beneficial; however, after implementation for over 30 years, the results seen from bilingual education are not as positive as one would expect. Bilingual education programs have not lived up to expectations. Bilingual education programs are costing the United States billions of dollars. Statistics show that students in these programs are not showing academic improvement. The programs rely too much on native languages which leads to further segregation. Students in California have suffered the most from bilingual education programs. More than 25 percent (1.4 million) of the students in California public schools are not proficient in English, and only five percent are gaining proficiency each year.

Many students leave school with limited spoken English and almost no ability to read and write in English (Taylor). In some cases, California students in bilingual education programs have taken more than eight years to complete, rather than the expected three years. Each year, only six Erie 3 percent of Californian children in bilingual education classes are adequately prepared to move into English classes. Unfortunately, drop-out rates are also increasing. Seventeen percent of Hispanics in bilingual classes drop out compared to the ten percent in English instruction classes.

Latinos in bilingual education programs have statistics similar to those of students in English-only schools (Taylor). Bilingual education programs are not solving the problem they were intended to solve. National test scores have shown that bilingual education students are improving at the same rate as students taught only in English. Gregory Rodreguez reports on the study done by Mark Lopez from the University of Maryland and Marie Mora from New Mexico State University which reveals the effect bilingual education has on the earnings of Latinos. First and second generation Latinos who were enrolled in bilingual education classes earned significantly less than similar peers who received “monolingual English instruction” (17). Bilingual education programs are not improving the financial success of non-English proficient students.

If the results are no better than these statistics show, what is the purpose of keeping these programs? Furthermore, the cost of bilingual education programs is outrageous. In 1968, the first year that bilingual education programs were executed, the cost was 7.5 million dollars. Since then, the United States has spent more than 400 million dollars each year on bilingual education programs. States also need additional funding to hire and train paraprofessionals, and some programs even pay college tuition for paraprofessionals so that they may qualify as teachers (Porter 30). Betsy Streisand, author of “Is It Hasta la Vista for Bilingual Education?” reports that bilingual education teachers receive an extra 5,000 dollars annually for teaching. In the future funding could include more than 20,000 teachers.

State and Federal governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars of public money over 30 years implementing bilingual education programs, and the programs have not shown to work successfully (Streisand). Another problem of teaching students in their native language is that this approach keeps the students from progressing in English and keeps them too dependent on their native language. Erie 4 Bilingual education programs have been so focused on keeping the students native language and culture alive that students are refraining from using English. In bilingual education programs, students speak their native language both at school and at home. Since they have no immediate use for English, the students speak primarily in their native language. Students refraining from using English, possibly explains the reason for the low success rate for students in bilingual education programs.

The programs need to be reconstructed so that the students spend more time speaking and hearing English. Reconstruction may lead to a more successful program. Another problem with these programs is that it tends to lead to segregation. The idea behind bilingual education has grown outside of its original mission of teaching English and has lead to further segregation of non-English speaking students (Porter 31). In bilingual education programs, students only converse with other students in their native language. Even when enrolled in English taught classes, the students of bilingual education programs tend to remain segregated from the rest of the student body because they were secluded for so long in their previous bilingual education classes.

In a diverse society such as the United States, segregation only leads to conflict. When Kirk Douglas, author of “Bilingual Education,” describes the United States as a”country of immigrants,” he illustrates how the United States influx of cultures has made us stronger as a nation. He maintains that if bilingual education inhibits the coherence of our society it should not still be implemented (37). The United States is a melting pot …


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