Effectiveness of bilingual education

Subject: 🎓 Education
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 1691
Topics: Academic Success, High School, Teaching Philosophy
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Bilingual education is a program that has been implemented in the School Systems in the United States. This program utilizes a strategy that incorporates the culture and language of students to teach the school’s curriculum, English as the second language and other life experiences that are commonly taught in schools. Various organizations like the U.S. English and English First have claimed that bilingual education is a complete failure. Nonetheless, there are also other people who believe that this teaching program has been very effective. This discussion will attempt to review whether or not bilingual education is an effective educational program in the American school systems.

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The question whether or not bilingual education is effective or not has been under review for a while now. The proponents of bilingual argue that bilingual education is very effective in teaching children from various backgrounds compared to other traditional methods that are normally used in the classrooms. Various research have been conducted to support or refute these claims. The various proponents and opponents of this educational program have claimed that scholarly research support their varying opinions concerning the effectiveness of bilingual education.

Jay Greene, an assistant professor of Government University of Texas at Austin conducted a statistical analysis that combine the results of two scientific studies that suggest the effectiveness of bilingual education in school systems. In his analysis, he therefore creates an unbiased reading of the various research articles to suggest that bilingual education is an effective educational program that mostly benefits children who are trying to learn English as their second language.

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A research that was conducted on 2,719 students and 1,562 of the students were registered in bilingual programs.  This research involved 11 studies that involved giving the students standardized test and determining the score results. The research design also involved about 13 different states. Based on the standardized tests given, scores were measured to determine the benefits of using at least an innate language in instruction together with English. The tests were both conducted on math tests measured in English and also on reading tests. The tests were conducted on traditional educational programs and bilingual programs and a comparison was made. The results indicated that there was a considerable improvement in the bilingual program in all the tests conducted (Greene, 1998S).

As indicated by the research, integrated bilingual education programs helps students to have a better proficiency in English. In addition, the proficient level in English attained by this students helped them to have better scores in the standardized tests. This clearly shows that bilingual education program in school systems is very effective. Despite this, bilingual education is not very common in the United States. Nonetheless, more and more are now attempting integrate this program into their school systems (Fuller, 2007). At the moment, the ESL pullout is the strategy that is being used in many classrooms that teach English. Regardless of its huge cost and incompetence, this program still remains the mostly common used in the United States school systems. What makes ESL program to be very costly compared to the bilingual program is extra ESL resource educators. What makes this program less effective is the fact that students have to omit important academic subjects since they sometimes coincide with the ESL class.

A survey that involved a selection of 420 random members of the Association of Texas teachers indicated that many are of the opinion that immigrants want their children to learn English and perform better in school. They also made an important observation that many parents complain that their children spend a lot of time in native language teaching. Since 1970s, bilingual education has been oriented towards inputs, procedure and obedience (Greene, 1998). It is also set on the assumption that with this kind of input then the output is automatically taken care of.

Todays, the demography in the American schools is considerably changing. The schools are now more diverse compared to more than two decades ago (Maxwell, 2015). Majority of the students in these schools are not predominant speakers of the English language. The high rates of immigration in America especially in search for education has resulted to a diverse school population with Asians, Indians, Hispanics and people from other countries. The challenge that results from such a diverse population is how to teach these students especially due to the low proficiency in the English language. The population of the native language speakers in the United States is quite considerable and their influence in the nation is quite undeniable.

The change in the society has led to an increase in language minorities especially in the United States school systems (Curiel, Rosenthal and Richek, 1986). Statistics continue to indicate a tremendous increase in these numbers over the years as a result of such significant numbers, the school systems in the United States cannot continue to ignore the need for adjusting educational programs. The expansion of the bilingual education program is a great way to ensure that growing group of language minorities are served at the best level possible (Potowski, 2007). This program takes care of the needs of native students who do not have a great proficiency of the English language.

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Bilingual education programs takes into account the native language of students and their culture. This are incorporated in the teaching process until a student has achieved excellent proficiency of the English language depending on the level at which the program is applied. The instructions are normally given with respect to cultural heritage and the native language of the student at the different stages that the program is applicable. This is normally continued so that a child can achieve an effective progress all through the educational system.

Bilingual education has four key goals which include linguistic growth, cultural enrichment, emotional growth and cognitive development. The main purpose of this educational program is to teach children the English language as soon as possible so that to make their integration into the mainstream of education easier (Crawford, 2004). The native language and the heritage of these students is usually maintained when teaching them English until they become very proficient in the language. Many critics of the program claim that it focuses too much on the cultural and linguistic side of the education and therefore this makes it an effective program of teaching. Nonetheless, it is important to note that although bilingual education has both linguistic and cultural goals, they are not the main theme of the program.

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Stephen Krashen, a well-known professor at the University of Southern California, and other renowned professors also make the important assertion that bilingual education is the most operative method for developing the proficiency of the English language among students.  The immersion approach that has been commonly used in many schools is not very effective as compared to the bilingual education approach. Immersion involves placing native speakers of English students in the same class with students who do not have a proficiency in English. The key factor in language acquisition is the quality and not the quantity. Linguistic researchers believe that bilingual education focuses on creating a solid input of the second language and this therefore helps the students to understand the English language better. In addition, a research by E. E Garcia also indicate that bilingual programs are capable of enriching linguistic with probable reasoning advantages.

Although bilingual education was introduced in the United States 3 decades ago, there are still controversies generated around it. Although both the proponents and the opponents of the program agree that the ultimate goal of this program help students become more proficient in the English language, there is still heated controversy on the effectiveness of this education approach. The proponents of the bilingual program argue that these programs do too much to maintain the native language and the cultural heritage that they fail to teach the students the English language.

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A research by the Center of Equal Opportunity was conducted on 600 parents who were randomly selected from the Hispanic group. The purpose of the research was to determine the importance of learning the English language. About 63% of the parents interviewed said that they would prefer if the children were taught the English language as quickly as possible. In addition an 81.3 % also suggested that their children should be taught other academic courses offered in school in English (Salomone, 2010). From such findings, the Center of Equal Opportunity suggested that the immersion program was better approach to teach students English compared to the bilingual program.

The criticism of the bilingual education program several years ago in the 1900s. During this period, children were even discouraged from communicating in their native language while in school. The immersion program was the order of the day and native language speaking students were forced to learn through other students (Ramirez, 1991). The opponents of the bilingual education program maintain that the program encourages students to speak in the native language and as a result this students do not readily speak the English language which makes it difficult for them to be easily integrated into the mainstream educational system.

While there are still some communities and organizations like U.S English and English First that feel that the bilingual education program is not effective there are still people who support the program including schools in the school districts of San Francisco and Houston. A lot of controversy around the bilingual program normally rises from issue like how much time a student spends in a particular program or how much a student learns in his/her native language.

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The focus should not be on how much time is required to teach a student but the quality of the English language that a student achieves using this program. The bilingual education approach allows students to acquire cognitive advantages which allows them to properly implement what they have leant in class during their every day to day life. Learning a language should be about the quality and not the quantity. This is what this program emphasizes on and as result students are able to acquire a higher proficiency of the English language.

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  1. Crawford, J. (2004). Educating English Learners: Language Diversity in the Classroom (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Bilingual Educational Service.
  2. Curiel, H., Rosenthal J.A., & Richek H.G. (1986). Impacts of Bilingual Education on Secondary School Grades, Attendance, Retentions and Drop-Out. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 8(4), 357-367.
  3. Fuller, J. (2007). Language Choice as a Means of Shaping Identity. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 17(1), 105-129. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43104134
  4. Greene, J.P. (1998). Bilingual Education: The Case of Science Over Politics.  Claremont, CA: The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute.
  5. Greene, J.P. (1998). A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Bilingual Education. Claremont, CA: The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute.
  6. Maxwell, L.A. (2015) Successes Spur Push for Dual-Language Classes. Education Digest, 80 (6), 19-24.
  7. Potowski, K. (2007). Language and identity in a dual immersion school. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csub/detail.action?docID=282690
  8. Ramirez, J.D., Yuen S.D., & Ramey, D.R. (1991). Executive Summary: Final Report:  Longitudinal Study of Structured English Immersion Strategy, Early-Exit
  9. Late-Exit Transitional Bilingual Education Programs for Language-Minority Children. San Mateo, CA: Aguirre International.
  10. Salomone, R.C. (2010). True American: language, identity, and the education of immigrant children. Cambridge, MA and London, England. Harvard University Press.
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