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What is The State of Bilingual Education in The United States?

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Bilingual education is an educational system that requires teaching two languages for academic instruction and content. Generally this means that a native language and an elective language is taught. The percentage of academic instruction and content depends on the school model, mission vision and framework. The goal of this article is to answer the question "What is The State of Bilingual Education in The United States?"

Bilingual education in the United States of America, according to the United States Department of Education, primarily caters for "limited English proficient students." This means that bilingual education primarily caters to United States citizens who have trouble expressing themselves in English. This approach and term is highly controversial since it focuses on deficiency instead of proficiency.

According to Bankstreet's Literacy Guide, the proper term and approach should be "English language learners." This requires a shift of philosophy from negative to positive.

Related Laws

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), superseded the Bilingual Educational Act. According to proponents and deponents "It emphasizes standard -based educational reform" which is based on the philosophy that bilingual students are as accountable to the educational system and that requiring the same high standards of educational achievement is important in measuring and improving a child's aptitude. However these standards are to be set by the State not the Federal Government.

In California Proposition 227 was passed which mandates that English Learners should be given special English instruction for a period not to exceed one year. This program sort of an immersion program to slowly wean English Learners for mainstream education. In Arizona, a similar proposition was enacted, under the name Arizona Proposition 203.

Georgia on the other hand, has its Georgia Project which is funded by the Federal government. The Georgia project targeted the overwhelming number of Mexicans who have migrated to the area. Educational immersion is achieved by allowing Mexican teachers to teach in schools and augment Spanish language as a method of instruction, and at the same time mainstream teachers are required to be trained in basic Spanish and culture

Advantages of the NCLB

Proponents of the NCLB, when asked the question "What is The State of Bilingual Education in The United States?" would generally state that it is more effective than the previous bilingual educational model. This is because, increasing the standards of academic education, or at least leveling it with normal single language education increases overall literacy may it be in the English language or their native language. Basically, proponents state that children who are required to achieve higher standards are better off in the long run.

Disadvantages of the NCLB

Deponents of the NCLB such as the English First, one of the staunchest advocates of English only education, when asked the question "What is The State of Bilingual Education in The United States?" would generally state that teaching children two languages confuses them and stunt their overall educational progress, much worst is the fact that since the second language is the native language there is increased likelihood that the child will not be proficient in the English language.

Root of the Problem

Some scholars believe that the controversy is actually rooted in social and political intolerance of some individuals and groups. This does not mean that Deponents take for granted the educational achievement of their children but rather, some scholars believe that racism and intolerance has, in some instance fueled the debate regarding bilingual reform.

In closing, of Bilingual Education in The United States requires the gradual immersion of English learners into mainstream education but is tempered by tolerance and understanding which allows the integration to be as less traumatic as possible. And while social, economic and political considerations come into play, at the very least it can be said that the United States is doing something to address the issue.

  1. American English Now
  2. Center for Multilingual Multicultural Research
  3. National Association for Bilingual Education
  4. Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs

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