While the position of education officials is one of inclusion for all learners, irrespective of ethnic, national, religious, sexual, social, linguistic or other varying backgrounds, there seems to be little collaboration between policy and practice. Though the state government sets the official standard for the way particularly governmental educational facilities are operated, several problems that different ethnic and language groups face in the educational setting go counter to laid-down guidelines.
It is my position that, though non-native speakers of the English language should be assimilated into the culture and language of the country as far as possible, it is still essential that attempts be made to retain the students’ native language. Assimilation into the culture will necessarily involve immersion into the local language but that has to go along with plans and procedures that sample the students’ varying cultures and providing meaningful experiences via the classroom setting for all learners as far as possible.
Therefore the position to retain the students’ native tongue within the classroom setting, rather than overshadowing it with the English language, must be adopted by educational officials if the educational goals of the institutions are to be realized for all students in the system. Furthermore, Good & Brophy (1995) agree far too often educators are too quick to disregard the individual differences and characteristics of students and attempt to deliver curriculum as if their students were a purely homogenous group.
They suggest that “teachers need to engage all students in social and academic tasks that are meaningful to students”(p. 555). Therefore, it is the duty of the teacher to ensure that the learning environment is one of inclusion and not exclusion for the multiplicity of individual differences that may exist in any given classroom. It is agreed that correlation, communication and cooperation between the home and the school, between parents and teachers is an essential recipe for a student’s success in the classroom.
Often for bilingual students, particularly recent immigrants, there is no continuity between the stress on English and the American culture between the home and the school. Language specialists have long noted that parents are often less likely to learn the new language than their children. Therefore when there is a decided stress on the removal of the native language from the classroom, this is counteracted by its use in the home and communities from which these students come. This conflict between the goals of the school and the goals of the home cannot continue.
I believe that if more schools attempt to be linguistically inclusive, encourage expression in the native language then parents may be more inclined to work along with the school in helping to assimilate their children into the American culture. The government’s position on the issue is quite clear. In Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act of 1968, official laid out the policy of the government to support, even financially, program that aimed to develop and implement creative methodology that would meet the needs of these special set of students (Cited in Rodriguez, 1999).
Though this position does not explicitly support the use of the native language in the classroom, it implies inclusive rather than exclusive and hostile methodology. I am in no way suggesting that the learning of the English language is not important. In fact it is absolutely necessary for these students to be accommodated into special programs that aim at facilitating their immediate induction into the use of the English language. What I am advocating however, is that the ties to the native country, which is often maintained primarily through language, should not be so readily attacked by the educator seeking to homogenize the classroom.
The curriculum must, in all respects, seek to meet the needs of all learners including those who are not very proficient in the use of the English language. As Good and Brophy (1995, P. 555), mention “although learning English is a part of the program, it is only a part. ” REFERENCES Good, T. L. & Brophy, J. E. (1995). Contemporary Educational Psychology. (5th ed. ). New York: Longman Publishers. Rodriguez, Luis. (1999). Discretion and Destruction: the Debate over Language in California’s Schools. Texas Forum on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, 4(189), 189-233.