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Bilingual Education Essay

Bilingual Education isn’t an issue that’s been short lived. The programs have existed as far back as the late eighteenth century; Immigrant students were then instructed in their first language. Ohio became the first state to adopt an actual bilingual education state legislation in 1839. Other states soon followed, although the variation in language was somewhat broader (Lipka n.p).

Controversy has been constant over what methods are actually effective, and what methods need to be retired. Since we are a nation that doesn’t have a national language and requires every child to obtain an education, the responsibility to provide one, becomes ours. With more and more immigrants coming from Mexico, the need for a successful bilingual education method is exploding. Educating any student in a language foreign to their own seems ridiculously absurd. One that doesn’t understand the language well can’t obtain anything taught in the foreign language. Although many approaches of bilingual education are used throughout the United States, they all vary in theory and in teaching style.

The students have to be thoroughly taught English before joining an English speaking classroom making Immersion the most successful method. During the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, bilingual education became an issue, making legislation necessary to help resolve the problem that had been affecting students and families so harshly (Lipka n.p). “In January 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Bilingual Education Act, which incorporated native-language instruction into the curriculum (Lipka).” Although the Bilingual Education Act was signed, the discrimination didn’t stop. A few years it was found in the court case Lau vs. San Francisco School District that the Bilingual Education Act wasn’t being carried out in their school.

The law suit represented 1,800 other students; eight-year-old Kenny Lau sued the San Francisco School District over English-only instruction in a school where most students spoke only Chinese. These students couldn’t learn in the English, because none of the students understood English. “The Supreme Court ruled that schools without special provisions to education language-minority students are not providing equal education and violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Federal government publishes new materials in nearly seventy languages and allocates
sixty-eight million dollars for bilingual education” (PBS n.p). After the Supreme Court hearing things still weren’t better for minority speaking students. Help was needed then, and remains the same today.

There are many different methods that educators choose to use in their classrooms, although some are controversial. “The bilingual programs of today are mostly a product of the Bilingual Education Act (Title VII) passed in 1968” (ECS n.p). Some states have mandated laws that enforce a strict bilingual program that is taught in all public schools in their state, while others aren’t as strict. Some states need the programs more than others. According to ProEnglish, “15 states account for 94% of students who speak languages other than English in their home.”

Therefore, we know that in these fifteen states we must teach English efficiently. These students all speak a native language in their homes, so on the contrary to some beliefs, these students are not easily going to pick up on a native language. Today we know more about educating students of a minority language then we did in the past, but we are still struggling with it today. Some people even believe we should completely throw bilingual education out. If that happens, there wouldn’t be opportunity for those native speaking students.

We would have much larger number of non-English speaking Americans, and a lot more citizens that couldn’t find jobs. Lastly, it would be breaking the Civil Rights Laws. There are countless misconceptions about bilingual education. Some even believe that it’s simply a lost cause, but statistics show other wise. “In 1990, only three percent of U.S. residents reported speaking English less than well or very well.

Only eight-tenths of one percent spoke no English at all (Crawford n.p)”. There are many effective methods to teaching these students. Some argue that if taught the native language, it can’t be transferred to the one learned, while this may be difficult for some, it is possible (Crawford n.p). Students would have an easier time transferring their knowledge from their native language opposed to being taught in a language that isn’t understandable at all. Critics complain about the tax dollars we spend to teach these non-English speaking students, but they also complain about all the minorities that have to live on welfare. Maybe if they were better educated it wouldn’t be quite the case. Critics also believe that bilingual education programs aren’t promoting English, but merely teaching students only in their native language.

Most every program in the United States promotes the teaching of English in one form or another. Although, they are not trying to remove ones culture and linguistic heritages, they are just preparing them for success in the public school systems and in the English speaking nation we live in. “According to one study, school districts reported that 28% of limited English proficiency (LEP) elementary school students receive no native-language instruction. Among those who do, about a third receive more than 75% of their instruction in English; a third receive from 40 to 75% in English; and one third of these receive less than 40% in English (Crawford n.p). Hispanic dropouts continue to remain high. There is multiple factors associated with these statistics, such as; family poverty, English proficiency, some simply never even enrolls in school (NCES n.p).

“In 2005, more than one-fifth (22.4 percent) of Hispanics 16 through 24 years of age were dropouts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES n.p)”. The Hispanic dropout rate can be lowered with good bilingual education plans for teaching those who can’t speak English. The rate is especially high in Mexican immigrants. “In fact, the status dropout rate of 44.2 percent for Hispanic 16- through 24-year-olds born outside the 50 states and/or the District of Columbia was more than double the rate of 16.1 percent for Hispanic youths born in the United States (NCES n.p)”. These individuals don’t have the education that is necessary to succeed in the United States, which is not fair according to Civil Rights laws.

There are multiple causes for the high dropout rate, but their understanding of the language is a leading cause. So, to be equal to all students, we must provide the same opportunity to native-speaking students. Methods are plentiful to educating students whom don’t speak the dominant language, but most generally only a few methods are currently used in public schools in the United States. First, the submersion method, in a submersion program the native speaking student is placed in the classroom right along with the English speaking students (Queen n.p). Students are expected to learn what the other students are being taught even though they may not fully understand the language. You could basically consider this method a “sink or swim” type of education. It sounds absurd for one to expect another to learn something in a language they cannot even decipher.

This method may not be considered Bilingual Education to some because only one language is being used. Even if this is the case, students are still being educated in a language unfamiliar to them. Students cannot understand something they aren’t familiar with. If they seem they are picking up on the language conversationally, they still may not register thoughts in English to actually learn material that is being taught in the classrooms. This method will not work for most students; native speaking students will continue to fall behind. Eventually students won’t be able to catch up with other students their age. Submersion is therefore, no one way for a student to learn anything. Students that fall behind could potentially add to the high statistics in the high dropout rates.

Many schools today have English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, such as the Scott County School district uses today. This is when a non-English speaking student is placed in English speaking classrooms for part of their classes, while for others they go to an ESL classroom. When in the ESL classroom they concentrate on learning English to succeed in their English speaking classes.

This method can be very effective if the student’s participate, but if they fall behind there is going to be many hardships catching up. Some students will never catch up to their age group in school and won’t finish their education (Queen n.p). Students in ESL programs aren’t given enough time to learn the language well enough to succeed; therefore the time they spend in English speaking classrooms could be considered useless to some. If they’re not understanding of the language, this seems like a waste of the student’s time. It can also be an imposition to the English speaking students in the classroom.

Special time and attention would have to be given to these native-speaking students. That time would then take away from the English-speaking student’s education. Students aren’t actually taking in anything they’re learning, other than picking up on a few English words, then this is a waste of time to not only the teachers that aren’t qualified to teach them, but to the English speaking students in the classroom as well. Minority students must receive intensive instruction, since the drop out rate of non-English speaking students in the public system is so high, measures must be drastic. “The General Accounting Office reported in February 2001 that out of 70 studies reviewed; only three focused specifically on how long it took students to attain English proficiency. General estimates ranged from four to eight years (ECS n.p).”

Therefore we know that learning a foreign language enough to learn isn’t easily done and it isn’t necessarily a speedy process. We have to give intensive instruction, and we must not give up on these students. This method isn’t effective enough though, it takes years to learn English in ESL programs as researchers have found. Being as this method takes so long, there is not time for students to keep up with their classes. Many students will not succeed, and will never accomplish what is required to graduate high school.

One of the biggest controversies schools and state legislators are facing is the argument with immersion versus Bilingual Education. The ESL method is used a frequently in the U.S, but many ESL supporters are starting to follow the new immersion trend, because it doesn’t take students as much time to learn English. Immersion method of teaching students are intensively taught English for a period of time, for example one school year. After they have learned English well enough to understand, and to actually have the chance to learn English.

They are placed back again in English speaking classes and that’s where they will continue their education. Immersion can stop students from dropping-out and falling behind. Critics argue this is just a loss of time, but with ESL they are in the long run loosing even more time. “At a leadership meeting a participant decided to speak up, she was an ESL teacher. She said, “Research shows that it takes five to seven years for a student to master English well enough to succeed in a mainstream classroom,” she said, adding that this finding was only for children who were already proficient in their first language. For kids without good language skills of any kind, it takes 10 years, said the teacher” (Triangle Business Journal N.P). Students that don’t speak well enough English get thrown into English speaking classrooms that they are not ready to be.

Upon this happening students continue to fall behind and could be accounted for such high dropout rates in native speaking students, especially in the Hispanic students. Native-speaking students will have a hard time understanding material in English when you present it before they truly understand enough but, if you make sure they understand the English first, teaching them in English is going to be much more effective and that should be a given. Bilingual Education will be effective in different ways for all different students. Any language students learn differently, some like more visual aide, while others like lots of verbal explanation. That being said, there is no difference in teaching students of another language. Every student has similar basic needs, therefore there should be a basic method used everywhere.

We can’t expect these students to sink or swim; a good method must be used. Since most of these students don’t have any sort of an English background at home, then educators can’t expect them to receive any help from the home. So, all the English has to come from the school. Since every student is going to learn at their own pace, we must teach them extensively, without doing so understanding English will not come quick enough.

Teaching them English isn’t taking them away from any of their native culture; it’s preparing them for success in the United States. Preparing students for success in English educators will be abiding the civil rights law, and offering each student the same education. If parents don’t want their child speaking two languages or learning English, they should take their child to a private school that will only teach their child in their native language. Although, most native-speaking parents want their children to be fluent in English as well as the language they speak at home.

There are also so many advantages to being bilingual today. When traveling foreign countries one could commute with others. It also leads to exposure to both cultures, and one will become more culturally diverse. If one wanted to move to another for another country for any different reason they would have an easier time adjusting. The United States today there are many different language being spoke all over, all the time. Employers look for multi-lingual speaking employees so that they can meet everyone’s needs.

Places such as the hospital, multi-language speaking employees are essential, because not only do English speaking patients come in, as well a lot of other native-speaking patients. Scott City and surrounding areas there are a lot of Spanish speaking people, whom need the same things English speaking people do. Therefore, offering one who is bilingual on the job is going to help tremendously.

Since the United States has no official language, I suppose we can’t expect everyone to speak English. According to ProEnglish, over 30 states have adopted English as their official language. Some federal legislation implicitly standardizes English (Wikipedia n.p). Knowing English could almost be considered essential to survive and succeed in this English speaking country. “According to the 2000 census, the United states has 215 million that are speaking English. While only 28 million speak Spanish, and next a Chinese language who has about two million speaking in the United States (Wikipedia n.p). This should be enough proof to any educator or legislator that knowing English is essential. If one is bilingual in English and Spanish, then even better. English is most essential to be successful in the United States.

There are endless reasons that knowing English in the United States that would be essential to anyone. The United States is the “land of the free”, so there is not law stating one must speak the most commonly spoken language: English. To be exact about ninety-six percent of Americans speak English (Wikipedia n.p). To be successful, one will want to understand the language. Most colleges in the United States are all taught in English, although you could go to a school speaking your language, the majority will be teaching in English. Students that want to succeed and go to state colleges they’re going to need to understand English. The opportunity is available for all students, but some might have it harder with the different method that’s used in schools across the United States.

All methods can work in teaching students; some are just more successful than others. We must educate these native-speaking students so that they have the equal opportunity that English-speaking students do. The need for bilingual education is astronomical; it’s simply what’s right. Students need to learn English to have the same opportunity for success as others. Some might even have more opportunity once they are fluent in more than one language. The point is we need a good program that works efficiently to educate every native-speaking student in the United States. All the methods have their perks, but we need the most effective and efficient program to teach these minority students. The submersion method doesn’t help any student that is struggling with English, they simply sink or swim. The method might be cheaper, but it will not help any student with the need for Bilingual Education.

The only advantage some consider is budgeting. The English as a Second Language program defiantly is a step-up from the Submersion program, but it shows many weaknesses as well. The program wastes time with students in English-speaking classrooms, that don’t even understand the language. Although they are being taught English, and have an instructor also teaching in their native language, the teaching of English, simply isn’t intense enough.

That’s why Immersion is the best way to educate these minority students that cannot speak English, although they may loose a year of education, they are not going to fall behind anymore than that. When they finish the program, they will be able to understand and speak English. When they are put into English-speaking classrooms they will understand everything being taught. This is what we need for these native students to keep up with the English speaking students.

This will minimize minorities’ falling behind; dropout rates, and maximizes English understanding. Immersion is the best way to teach these students, and will in turn help these students succeed to fullest of their potential. Immersion makes Bilingual Education is faster and more successful. When structured English immersion plans were used in California, “after two years of instruction, students made significant gains in reading and writing in English as well as math, relative to students’ nationwide taking the Stanford 9, most of whom are native English speakers (NCPA n.p)”. This seems proof enough, that immersion is the way to teach our minority students English successfully.

Citations:
1. National Center for Educational Statistics. Student Effort and Educational Process.n.d.
2006. 10 April 2009
.
2. Education Commision of the States. n.d. 11 April 2009
.
3. Queen, Robin. Bilingual Education. 2005. 12 April 2009
.
4. Jones, Madison and Renee Bou-Waked. School Choice and Hispanic Dropouts. 12 November 2007. 8 April 2009 .
5. Crawford, James. Ten Common Fallacies about Bilingual Education. November 1998. 7 April 2009 .
6. Hood, John. “Immersion vs. bilingual education.”Triangle Business Journal
(1997): n.p.
7. Lipka, Sara. “The Battle Over Bilingual Education.”
The Atlantic Online (2002): n.p.
8. PBS. Master Time Line. n.d. 10 April 2009
.
9. ProEnglish. The status of bilingual education in America. n.d. 8 April 2009 .

10. Wikipedia. Languages of the United States. n.d. 9 April 2009. .


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