The Debate Over Bilingual Education and Immersion Programs

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The Debate Over Bilingual Education and Immersion Programs

In recent years, the debate over whether bilingual education or immersion programs (such as English for Speakers of Other Languages) better serve the needs of limited-English-proficient (LEP) students in the United States has been heating up. The increasing need for such services insights passionate supporters and opposition to rise up against one another in the fight over which is better. Advocates of bilingual education stress the value in helping students retain and even enhance proficiency in their native language, while at the same time gaining proficiency in the English language. Critics of bilingual education, however, contend that such programs only “keep students in a cycle of native language dependency that ultimately inhibits significant progress in English language acquisition” (Bilingual Education, p.1). They prefer an immersion (ESOL) approach, that is, where classes are taught completely and only in English. They contend that students learn English faster and more effectively when they are completely immersed in the language.

The debate has been especially strong in states where Latino populations are high. In fact, changes in education programs have already occurred in such states as California and Arizona. The sunshine state’s infamous Proposition 227 (also know as the English for the Children initiative), Arizona’s Proposition 203, and a number of other state’s English for the Children campaigns are evidence that many people are dissatisfied with bilingual education and are seeking – and getting - changes. Regardless, the general public remains divided on the issue. Teachers, administrators, students, parents, politicians, and researchers ...

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...e language to be learned. She offers expert advice to educators, parents, and volunteers as to how to develop, modify, and maintain effective programs for students learning English as a second language.

Slavin, R. E. (2000). How do language differences and bilingual programs affect student achievement. In Educational psychology. (6th ed., pp.119-121). Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.

This section focuses on the affect of Bilingual Education programs on student achievement, offering definitions of key terms and analyzing the effectiveness of such courses. The author uses support from research to explain that Bilingual Education programs have experienced much success, but also points out the problems of the system. Additionally, there is some discussion of the recent movements to abandon Bilingual Education, followed by a brief discussion of their effect.
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