Bilingual Education

577 Words3 Pages
The issue of bilingual education is a much debated topic in this country and especially in this state. The Spanish-speaking populace has grown tremendously in these past decades, much of which has immigrated with Spanish as their only language. This has left the public school system with an interesting problem; how to successfully transition Spanish speaking students into an English environment. Public school systems have generally adopted one of two approaches to this problem. One is to allow students several years to develop their English with lessons taught in both languages. The other is a total immersion program where students are thrust into English-only lessons with little time develop their second language. Both approaches have ardent followers with valid arguments for each approach. In immersion programs children are allowed at most one year of English study before being placed in main-stream English-only classes. Proponents of this sink-or-swim approach often site the success of their forbearers who learned English without schools trying to accommodate them with native-language classes. Immersion proponents also cite the fact that the bilingual approach creates a cultural segregation of students. The English language is a tool of national unity, they point out. Supporters of immersion also question the success of students in bilingual education programs. They argue that students never really learn English and instead fall into using the native language all through school. They also site studies that show test scores higher in schools with immersion programs than in school that favor a bilingual approach. The approach of bilingual education is to allow students to study and learn in their native language while they master their understanding of the English language over three to six years. The argument is that it makes sense that a teacher would want to teach a child in a language they understand until they have fully mastered their second language. Supporters also have their studies to quote. In 1998-1999, for the third year in a row, students learning in a bilingual education program scored higher in English reading and comprehension than students enrolled in immersion programs according to the Arizona Department of Education. Opponents to English immersion cite the massive increase of high school dropouts since California passed statewide initiative for all public schools to adopt immersion only programs. Bilingual supporters also note that most students are mainstreamed after just three years of bilingual education while immersion students are often held in immersion programs two to three years longer than the one year term.

More about Bilingual Education

Open Document