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Bilingual education is a subject of criticism by the mainstream media. People argue about this form of education, create, and spread misconceptions concerning a subject they have limited knowledge of. Bilingual education refers to the use of programs that provide help to native students. There are three kinds of bilingual programs. The first one aims at teaching English to language minority students through immersing them in classes where English is the only instructional language. The second program involves teaching students in their home language while demanding that they enroll in classes where they learn English as a second language. The final program involves simultaneous teaching of students in their home language and English. The main objective of this curriculum is to help students to be proficient in English and be able to learn in mainstream classes. This paper supports arguments that favor the existence of the bilingual language in an educational setting.
The Elementary and Second School Act
Bilingual education started in 1968 after the creation of Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary School Act. The purpose of the education was to help students who are not proficient in the English Language. This act sought to ease attitudes that people had against immigrants and their respective languages. Before that, immigrant students performed poorly in school, and most of them dropped out because they could not comprehend the language of instruction (White & Gayle, 1997).
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The use of native or home language enables students to learn. The native language, usually Spanish, keeps immigrant students from lagging in their studies as they try to learn English. Students, who are adept in their home language, are equipped with the foundations of language mastery. This implies that they can easily learn a second language. Although writing and language systems differ across languages, the reading process is similar. The native language is the first language of instruction for a child. A good education should ensure that a child gets knowledge and this is the basis of other subjects. For instance, a student who is taught geography in the first language has background knowledge and will understand the subject better. It is vital to note that, literacy in the first language implies literacy in the second language.
Good bilingual programs provide students with the subject matter, especially in sheltered classes. In the context of bilingual education, subject matter refers to classes meant for intermediate speakers of English. The native language is very important in sheltered classes because it makes the presentation of a subject matter to be easy. However, students who begin to study English should not be allowed in the intermediate classes because they may not get comprehensible input.
Studies done on programs that offer bilingual education have revealed that the grades of the students improve with every class. For instance, in a class where students are instructed in 80% Spanish and 20% English, there is a subsequent improvement in their grades. Thomas Wayne and Virginia Collier, researchers at George Mason University in Virginia, studied the effectiveness of bilingual education. In this study, students were instructed in both languages. They found out that students who are slowly introduced to English perform better than those who are immersed in English programs. They conclude that two-way bilingual programs are the solution in closing the gap between native and non-native English speakers (De la Pena, 1991).
In terms of costs, the double-bilingual programs are expensive. This is because the programs require vast materials, spacious classrooms, well-trained teachers, small teachers to students ratios, and administrators. This is the best way of teaching English to students who are not proficient in the language. Although the immersion program is cheaper, it is ineffective and makes students drop out of school because of lack of transition and eventual comprehension. If students do not understand the language of instruction, then they may not be in a position to get the content of the subject.
From a cultural perspective, bilingual systems try to embrace the culture of the native students. These students want to learn this language to get into the mainstream of the nation. Their diversity in language and culture only serves to enrich the cultural heritage of the nation. These programs will help them to feel accepted and the outcome is that they will be able to maintain their home language while learning English.
In America, bilingualism is embraced just like multilingualism. Educating students in second languages will make the US have higher education rates and performance as a nation. Learning in the native language is both a human and a civil right. In Lau vs. Nichols, a case presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974, the outcome of the ruling stated that schools that did not acknowledge native languages were violating the civil rights of students (White & Gayle, 1997). States like California did not have special provisions under which both native and English languages would be taught.
The education of children should be respected and any violation should be treated with suspicion. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been passed in some states like Massachusetts and California. This act has some elements that do not embrace the learning of the bilingual language. ESEA demands that schools should focus on using English only and this may lead to high rates of dropouts from elementary education. The use of English as an official language continues to undermine the unity of the American people not taking into account whether they are natives or immigrants (De la Pena, 1991).
Language has always been dynamic and very active. Its function is to communicate the needs of the society while expressing culture and integration. Learning a second language is very important because it helps the learner to step into the context of another culture. In this age of globalization, bilingualism can only lead to effective communication and negotiations with a person of a different culture or origin. A different language is very essential because it enables the learner to have a different vision of life, and immigrant students should not be left out. People are increasingly becoming more independent of each other. Bilingualism ensures the world unity, security, and comprehension of other cultures. It is vital to note that, poor intercultural insensitivity has been fostered by monolingual cultures. This can lead to a lack of trust, hamper negotiations in places where compromise due to understanding could have been achieved. A system that incriminates the teaching of foreign languages closes its doors from globalization. For instance, only 10% of Americans are fluent in a second language while the majority have dropped their native languages. This should be reversed if the U.S. aims at playing a key role in international development (Lang, 2009).
A rich culture ensures that there are people who have insight into a foreign language, understand news articles, and can interpret everything within its context. In the social arena, a native language puts a student in the limelight. People want to embrace a native speaker to learn their culture, cuisine, and traditions. If students are taught to appreciate their native languages, then the chances of appreciating English are very high. Bilingualism has also been attributed to sharpen the cognitive skills of students. Finally, the embracement of bilingualism will lead to the creation of jobs for well-trained instructors. Researchers in this field will allow them to earn a decent income while fostering the expansion of language in the national and global setting.
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