Bilingual–bicultural education

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Bilingual–Bicultural or BiBi deaf education programs use sign language as the native, or first, language of deaf children. In the United States, for example, American Sign Language (ASL) is the natural first language for deaf children. The spoken or written language used by the majority of the population is viewed as a secondary language to be acquired either after or at the same time as the native language. In BiBi education, sign language is the primary method of instruction. The bicultural aspect of BiBi education emphasizes Deaf culture and strives to create confidence in deaf students by exposing them to the Deaf community.

Various studies have found a correlation between ASL skill level and English literacy or reading comprehension. The most plausible explanation for this is that ASL skill level predicts English literacy level.[1] Having a basis of American Sign Language can benefit the acquisition of the English language. In fact, bilingual children show more development in cognitive, linguistic, and meta-linguistic processes than their monolingual peers.[2]

36% to 40% of residential and day schools for deaf students in the US report using BiBi education programs.[3]

Famous examples of school utilizing the BiBi method in the US is The Learning Center for the Deaf, Massachusetts.

Bilingual-Bicultural Movement[edit]

Marie Jean Philip was a pioneer in the Bilingual-Bicultural (Bi-Bi) movement. In 1985, The Learning Center for Deaf Children in Framingham was able to convince Marie Philip to begin a new career as Special Assistant to the Director for Implementation of Bilingual/Bicultural Policies. After 2 years, Marie agreed to take on the full-time position of Bilingual Bicultural Coordinator, which she held from 1988. Marie Philip led the school into (Bi-Bi) education system, The Learning Center for the Deaf became first (Bi-Bi) Deaf School in America.[4]


Bilingual–bicultural education is based on Cummins' Model of Linguistic Interdependence. In 1976, James Cummins predicted that proficiency in a first language would correlate to competence in a second language because a single cognitive process underlies language acquisition for both languages. After decades of using the oral method of education, some advocates sought a new method for teaching deaf students. Many schools then began to use systems of Manually Coded English (MCE) in an attempt to develop English in deaf students. After the perceived failure of Manually Coded English systems, some educators began using the bilingual–bicultural model.[2]


Sweden and Denmark are two countries known for their bilingual–bicultural education of deaf children. Sweden passed a law in 1981 that mandated bilingualism as a goal of deaf education. Denmark recognized sign language as an equal language and espoused sign language as the primary method of instruction in schools for the deaf in 1991.[5]


  1. ^ Goldin-Meadow, S. & Mayberry, I. R. (2001). How Do Profoundly Deaf Children Learn to Read? Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16 (4), 222-229.
  2. ^ a b Prinz, Philip M.; Michael Strong, PhD (August 1998). "ASL Proficiency and English Literacy within a Bilingual Deaf Education Model of Instruction". Topics in Language Disorders: 47–62. 
  3. ^ LaSasso, Carol; Jana Lollis (Winter 2003). "Survey of Residential and Day Schools for Deaf Students in the United States That Identify Themselves as Bilingual–Bicultural Programs". Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. 8 (1): 79–88. doi:10.1093/deafed/8.1.79. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Baker, Sharon; Baker, Keith (August 1997). "ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education". Education Resources Information Center.