The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2021)
Bilingual education involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. Bilingual education refers to the utilization of two languages as means of instruction for students and considered part of or the entire school curriculum, as distinct from simply teaching a second language as a subject.
Importance of bilingual education
Bilingual education is viewed by educators as the "pathway to bilingualism", which is the goal of understanding a second, or foreign, language. Bilingualism provides a multidimensional view of language learning that contains five categories; individual, societal, family, school, and disciplinary. Not only does bilingualism introduce new linguistics, but it gives a perspective on cultural diversity. This allows intercultural communication, which can lead to an increase in globalization and harmony among the universe.[further explanation needed]
Bilingual education program models
The following section surveys several different types of bilingual education program models.
Transitional bilingual education
Transitional bilingual education involves education in a child's native language to ensure that students do not fall behind in content areas like mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English. When the child's English proficiency is deemed satisfactory, they can then transition to an English Only (EO) environment. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. While the linguistic goal of such programs is to help students transition to mainstream, English-only classrooms, the use of the student's primary language as a vehicle to develop literacy skills and acquire academic knowledge also prevents the degeneration of a child's native language. This program model is often used in the United States school system.
Immersion bilingual education
Immersion is a type of bilingual education in which subjects are taught in a student's second language. The students are immersed into a classroom in which the subject is taught entirely in their second language (non-native language). There are different facets of immersion in schools. There is total immersion in which the whole class is taught in the second language. Partial immersion is when about half of the class time is spent learning that second language. The third type of immersion within schools is called two-way immersion, also known as dual immersion. Dual immersion occurs when half of the students in class natively speak the second language while the other half do not. Dual immersion encourages each group of students to work together in learning each other’s language.
Two-way or dual language immersion
Dual language or two-way immersion education refers to programs that provide grade-level content and literacy instruction to all students through two languages, English and a partner language. These programs are designed to help native and non-native English speakers become bilingual and biliterate. There are four main types of dual language programs, these programs refer to how a student would best learn with dual language immersion based on their previous language skills.
The first type are developmental, or maintenance bilingual programs. These programs enroll students who are native speakers of the partner language to learn English. The second type are bilingual immersion programs. These programs enroll both native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language. The third type are foreign language immersion programs. These programs primarily enroll students who speak English as their native language. Finally, the fourth type are heritage language programs. These programs enroll students who are primarily dominant in English, but a close relative (e.g. parent or grandparent) speaks the partner language.
Another form of bilingual education is a type of dual language program that has students study in two different ways: 1) A variety of academic subjects are taught in the students' second language, with specially trained bilingual teachers who can understand students when they ask questions in their native language, but always answer in the second language; and 2) Native language literacy classes improve students' writing and higher-order language skills in their first language. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. In this type of program, the native language classes do not teach academic subjects. The second-language classes are content-based, rather than grammar-based, so students learn all of their academic subjects in the second language. Dual language is a type of bilingual education where students learn about reading and writing in two languages. In the United States, the majority of programs are English and Spanish but new partner languages have emerged lately such as Japanese, Korean, French, Mandarin, and Arabic. The concept of dual language promotes bilingualism, improved awareness of cultural diversity, and higher levels of academic achievement by means of lessons in two languages.
The 90/10 and 50/50 models
There are two basic models for dual language immersion. The first model is the 90/10 model. The two-way bilingual immersion program has 90% of the instructions in grades K-1 in the minority language, which is less supported by the broader society, and 10% in the majority language. This proportion gradually changes in the majority language until the curriculum is equally divided in both languages by 5th grade. The two-way bilingual immersion program is based on the principle of clear curriculum separation of the two languages of instruction. Teachers do not repeat or translate the subject matter in the second language but strengthen concepts taught in one language across the two languages in a spiral curriculum in order to provide cognitive challenge (Thomas & Collier, 1997). The languages of instructions are alternated by theme or content area. This type of immersion is required to develop the dual language proficiency, as social language can be mastered in couple of years, but a higher level of competency is required to read social studies texts or solve mathematics word problems, roughly around 5 to 7 years (Collier, 1987). The goal of gradually increasing the majority of the language is for instruction to become 50% of English and 50% of the partner language. The second model is the 50/50 model. In the 50/50 model English and the partner language are used equally throughout the program.
Dual immersion programs in the US
Dual immersion classrooms encourage students' native language development, making an important contribution to heritage language maintenance, and allow language minority students to remain in classrooms with their native English-speaking peers, resulting in linguistic and socio-cultural advantages. As of May 2005, there were 317 dual immersion programs operating in elementary schools in the United States in 10 different languages.
Dual language programs are less common in US schools, although research indicates they are extremely effective in helping students learn English well and aiding the long-term performance of English learners in school. Native English speakers benefit by learning a second language. English language learners (ELLs) are not segregated from their peers. These students are taught in their mother tongue yet still in the typical 'American' classroom, for both cognitive and social benefits.
English as a second language
This program entails learning English while with people that speak the same native language. ESL is a supplementary, comprehensive English language program for students trying to learn the language to better function in American society. People are learning English as a second language because English has been assigned communicative status in that country. Singapore, India, Malawi, and 50 other territories use English as part of the country’s leading institutions, where it plays a second-language role in a multilingual society. ESL is different from EFL (English as a foreign language). ESL is offered at many schools to accommodate the culturally diverse students, most often found in urban areas, and helps these students keep up with subjects such as math and science. To teach ESL abroad, a bachelor's degree and ESL teaching qualification is typically required at minimum.
Late-exit or developmental bilingual education
In this program model, education is in the child's native language for an extended duration, accompanied by education in English. The goal is to develop literacy in the child's native language first, and transfer these skills to the second language. This education is ideal for many English learning students, but in many instances the resources for such education are not available.
Effects of mother-tongue instruction
Continuing to foster the abilities of children's mother tongue along with other languages has proven essential for their personal and educational development because they retain their cultural identity and gain a deeper understanding of language. Two 2016 studies of mother-tongue instruction in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively show that it had positive outcomes for the students in both countries. The following list contains multiple benefits that researchers have found from children being educated bilingually.
Theory of mind is connected to empathy because it helps us to understand the beliefs, desires, and thoughts of others. Researchers studying theory of mind in bilingual and monolingual preschoolers found that bilingual preschoolers performed significantly higher on theory of mind false belief tasks than their monolingual peers.
Researchers found that students in a dual-language immersion program in Portland Oregon performed better in English reading and writing skills than their peers.
Many studies have shown that bilingual children tend to have better executive function abilities. These are often measured using tasks that require inhibition and task switching. Bilingual children are typically able to hold their attention for longer without becoming distracted and are better able to switch from one task to another.
School performance and engagement
Researchers Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier conducted school program evaluation research across 15 states. They found that students in dual-language classroom environments have better outcomes than their peers in English-only classrooms in regards to attendance, behavior, and parent involvement.
American congressional acts
The United States Congress introduced the Bilingual Act in 1968; it defines the term program for bilingual education. This program of instruction is intended for children who are not fully proficient in the English language. Instructions are given so pupils can achieve the necessary competence in English as well as in their original languages, taking into consideration the children’s cultural heritage. This can be integrated into the subjects or courses of study, with the intent to enable students to grow effectively throughout the educational system.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1968) was another significant measure for bilingual education. Title VII (Bilingual Education Act) created federal guidelines for bilingual education and recognized that "large numbers of children of limited English-speaking ability in the United States" had "[s]pecial educational needs". The Act specified a federal governmental obligation to subsidize creative bilingual programs. Title VII has been amended numerous times since it was introduced; it became part of the America Schools Act in 1994.
Myths surrounding bilingual education
Many myths and much prejudice have grown around bilingual education. Researchers from the UK and Poland have listed the most entrenched misconceptions:
- bi- or multilinguals are exceptions to the ‘default’ monolingual ‘norm’;
- in order to deserve the label ‘bi-/multilingual’, one needs to have an equal, ‘perfect’, ‘nativelike’ command of both/all of their languages;
- childhood bilingualism may be detrimental to both linguistic and cognitive development and consequently lead to poorer results at school;
- exposing a child to more than one tongue may cause language impairment or deficits, or that for children already diagnosed with impairments two languages mean too much unnecessary pressure and effort;
- children do not have enough time to learn both languages, therefore it is better if they only acquire the majority language.
These are all harmful convictions which have long been debunked,[dubious ] yet still persist among many parents. It is important to understand what constitutes the decision for sending children to a bilingual school. The decision should be based on, appropriate age, curriculum, and the preference of the child.[self-published source]
In spite of these myths surrounding language education, there are numerous significant benefits to a child's development when exposed to secondary language education. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages has identified over twenty benefits to a child's development when provided adequate secondary language education.
By country or region
- English as a foreign or second language
- Intercultural bilingual education
- Multilingual Education
- National Association for Bilingual Education
- Secondary Level English Proficiency test
- Bimodal bilingualism
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