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Bilingual Education

July 24th, 2009 No comments

Bilingual Education is referred as to the use of two languages, one is the person’s native language and the other is English that is required for instruction and interaction in the United States. Bilingual programs began over two decades ago when the first Bilingual Educational Act was passed in 1968. These programs have been federally funded. Since, English is consider the “mother tongue”, schools are expected to teach the newcomers English and to socialize them to the American way of life. Therefore, bilingual educational programs are designed to assist and help limited English proficient students to adjust to life in the United States. It has been said, that these programs have not been successful. However, debates and controversies surrounding bilingual education programs have been whether or not should these programs be excluded from schools.

Bilingual education consists of various programs. One of the programs used in the United States is the maintenance model, where students develop fluency in their native language while they learn English. The transitional model which uses students’ non-English languages to facilitate the mastery of both content area skills and English fluency. The ESOL refers to the English of speakers of other languages. The ESL model is when students learn English as their second language. In addition, the immersion, structured immersion and the submersion programs have had a great impact on limited English proficient students to become proficient in English. Immersion is described as the second language instruction where students have no knowledge of the language and which is the medium of interaction. In these programs instruction varies, some can have English instruction the entire day, others half a day or even less. The outcome of these programs is that students can learn faster to function at level in the second language. Some limited English proficient students are placed in submersion programs. In submersion non-English speakers are placed in English speaking classrooms to help them develop their skills in English. The outcomes are that students will learn faster and will pick up the language if they are exposed to the language all day. On the other hand, structured immersion programs are designed to help students become quickly proficient in English. This method is successful because students are provided with English instructions in special English developmental languages classes allowing them to become fluent in English. The model mainly used in the United States is the transitional model. Through this model, students’ native language is paired with English instruction until students develop sufficient English to function successfully in regular classrooms.

According to the 1980 Census, 15% of the total population is language minority people. Research has found that the largest minority group in the United States is Spanish- speaking people. Out of those fifteen percent there were 7.9 million school-age children who were enrolled in bilingual programs. Since the majority of these students did not know English, they were placed in bilingual programs to help them learn English. However, the main objective of bilingual programs was to provide English instruction while using the student’s native language. In most bilingual programs students are transferred to regular classrooms after three years. At this point, “all instruction in the students’ native languages ceases, and students are expected to function entirely in English”. Opponents said that these programs do not work; however, bringing bilingual education to debates and controversies. By demonstrating points of both groups people could decide whether or not these programs work.
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