The Debate Between Bilingual Education And English Immersion Essay

Bilingual Education is defined as any school program that uses two languages.

In a more theoretical sense it is any educational program whose ultimate goal is for the participants to be fully versed in all facets of both languages, able to listen, speak , read, and write in both languages. The definition of a coordinated, developmental bilingual approach has emphasized the goal of being equally fluid in both languages. Realistically, this has not been the goal for most K-12 bilingual schools in the United States.More commonly in the United States we are using the words “bilingual program” to describe a program that will provide literacy and content in the primary language, while building English fluency, to the point where all instruction will occur in English. These programs are label transitional bilingual programs as their ultimate goal is to transition all students into an English only learning arena. One of the down sides of these programs is that they are not maintenance bilingual programs which are designed to preserve and develop student’s primary language while they acquire English as a second language.

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All bilingual program models use the students’ home language, in addition to English, for instruction. These programs are most easily implemented in districts with a large number of students from the same language background. Students in bilingual programs are grouped according to their first language, and teachers must be proficient in both English and the students’ home language. Early-exit bilingual programs are designed to help children acquire the English skills required to succeed in an English-only mainstream classroom.These programs provide some initial instruction in the students’ first language, primarily for the introduction of reading, but also for clarification. Instruction in the first language is phased out rapidly, with most students mainstreamed by the end of first or second grade. The choice of an early-exit model may reflect community or parental preference, or it may be the only bilingual program option available in districts with a limited number of bilingual teachers.

Late-exit programs differ from early-exit programs “primarily in the amount and duration that English is used for instruction as well as the length of time students are to participate in each program” (Venezky, 1991). Students remain in late-exit programs throughout elementary school and continue to receive 40% or more of their instruction in their first language, even when they have been reclassified as fluent-English-proficient. Two-way bilingual programs, also called developmental bilingual programs, group language minority students from a single language background in the same classroom with language majority, English-speaking students.Ideally, there is a nearly 50/50 balance between language minority and language majority students.

Instruction is provided in both English and the minority language. In some programs, the languages are used on alternating days. Others may alternate morning and afternoon, or they may divide the use of the two languages by academic subject.

Native English speakers and speakers of another language have the opportunity to acquire proficiency in a second language while continuing to develop their native language skills.Students serve as native-speaker role models for their peers. Two-way bilingual classes may be taught by a single teacher who is proficient in both languages or by two teachers, one of whom is bilingual. ESL Program Models, rather than bilingual programs, are likely to be used in districts where the language minority population is very diverse and represents many different languages. ESL programs can accommodate students from different language backgrounds in the same class, and teachers do not need to be proficient in the home language of their students.ESL pullout is generally used in elementary school settings.

Students spend part of the school day in a mainstream classroom, but are pulled out for a portion of each day to receive instruction in English as a second language. Although schools with a large number of ESL students may have a full-time ESL teacher, some districts employ an ESL teacher who travels to several schools to work with small groups of students scattered throughout the district. ESL class period is generally used in middle school settings.Students receive ESL instruction during a regular class period and usually receive course credit. They may be grouped for instruction according to their level of English proficiency. The ESL resource center is a variation of the pullout design, bringing students together from several classrooms or schools.

The resource center concentrates ESL materials and staff in one location and is usually staffed by at least one full-time ESL teacher. The teacher’s use of the children’s first language is limited primarily to clarification of English instruction.Most students are mainstreamed after 2 or 3 years. Redesignation occurs when a child knows enough English to participate in the mainstream. All studies, whether done by advocates or opponents of bilingual education, show that this takes about five years. When redesignation rates rose in Los Angeles Unified School District recently, supporters of Proposition 227 claimed success.

Redesignation rates in Los Angeles did in fact improve: A tenth of a percent in 1999, and about two percent since 1998.Proposition 227 has been in effect only two years, not enough time to show an effect. Redesignation rates in Los Angeles Unified district have been increasing for the last ten years, from about four percent in 1990 to ten percent in 2000.

In the early 1990’s, Los Angeles Unified greatly improved its bilingual education program. It appears that bilingual education deserves the credit for the improvement, not Proposition 227. Some English-only districts had redesignation rates below the state average, while some that kept bilingual education had higher redesignation rates.

Proposition 227 indicated one year was enough time to acquire a sufficient level of English to do well in the “mainstream. Researchers reported that after one year in an all-English “immersion program, only 3. 9% of LEP children were “redesignated” and only 1. 3% were mainstreamed. Even after three years, these percentages were still only 38% and 19%. Researchers followed the progress of limited English proficient children in the Santa Ana district in an “immersion” program that was similar to what Proposition 227 requires.

When they entered school, the children had “low intermediate” proficiency in English. After one year, they showed some growth in English but were nowhere near what was required to do academic work in the mainstream. Even after a second year of immersion, their mean English rating was still below average.

One school year, 180 days, was not sufficient even to bring most students to the level where they could do well in special “sheltered ” subject matter instruction, and fell very short of bringing students to the level where they would profit from being in the mainstream.LEP children in Pennsylvania received a “language rich curriculum” in English in kindergarten, with 75 minutes daily of ESL. For those who started at beginner level, it took three to three and a half years until they reached the level in which they are able to “understand main ideas appropriate to grade level” even with additional ESL support.

After one year, most were still at the “beginner” level in oral proficiency. This study was presented as evidence against bilingual education. The Little Hoover Commission published a very hostile and critical review of bilingual education in 1993.

They noted that some experts believe that English can be academically comprehensible for children in as little as two years, while others believe that six or more years of assistance are necessary. Their minimum estimate is two years, twice the amount that Prop 227 allows. The one-year time period is wildly optimistic. It is contrary to the results of every study done in the field in which programs very similar or identical to sheltered English immersion were used. Additionally the primary language is seen as crutch, to be discarded when the students are proficient enough in English.

Although not geared for the creation and maintenance of bilingualism, these programs still are far more academically sound than the current return to immersion. English immersion (EI) refers to programs in which students are taught a second language through content area instruction in that language. These programs generally emphasize contextual clues and adjust grammar and vocabulary to student’s proficiency level. Bilingual Education is defined as any school program that uses two languages.In a more theoretical sense it is any educational program whose ultimate goal is for the participants to be fully versed in all facets of both languages, able to listen, speak, read, and write in both languages. The definition of a coordinate bilingual is someone who is equally fluid in both languages. Realistically this has not been the goal for most K-12 bilingual schools in the United States.

More commonly in the United States we are using the works bilingual program to describe a program that will provide literacy and content in the primary language, while building English fluency, to the point where all instruction will occur in English.These programs are label transitional bilingual programs as their ultimate goal is to transition all students into an English only learning arena. One of the down sides of these programs is that the product of a coordinate bilingual is not possible because of the lack of continuing instruction in the primary language. Additionally the primary language is seen as crutch, to be discarded when the students are proficient enough in English.

Although not geared for the creation and maintenance of bilingualism, these programs still are far more academically soundOver the past decade there has been a dramatic increase in various media and computer applications designed to specifically address the needs of second language learners. University language departments are implementing new technologies into the curriculum on a regular basis, as information technology and the digital domain offer new possibilities for rich content, expanded assessment capabilities and immediate feedback. Several school districts across the nation are creating special magnet high schools where technology, international studies, and second languages are emphasized.Technology is becoming a bigger part of both in-class and home study as the traditional use of audio and films is supplemented by computer-assisted instruction and interactive media technologies. The use of information technology to further enhance the environment for second language learners involves a technology plan that addresses key issues.

One of the first steps in technology-assisted instruction is to decide which technological medium is the most appropriate one for the language skills to be developed during a particular period of time.Some technologies lend themselves better to the acquisition of certain language skills than others. Computer-assisted instructional (CAI) programs are ideal for fostering reading and writing skills in the target language.

Groups or individual students within a classroom or media center, or over local or long-distance computer networks can use CAI. Email provides a real form of communication between students. Whether the message arrives from a classmate on campus, or originates on the other side of the globe, the use of such a real form of communication motivates students to read that message, and in turn, to respond in writing.With a basic word processing program, students can write short articles and compile and edit a newspaper based on their classroom exchanges. The use of such text-based applications is just the one of the many possibilities for extending language learners potential to explore different learning styles and multiple intelligences. It is important to note that language learning, using deliberate strategies to increase second language competency, involves steps taken by language learners.This is distinct from “learning styles”, which refer more broadly to a learner’s innate, habitual, and preferred ways of absorbing, processing and retaining information or skills. Interactive audio with the addition of audio capabilities to personal computers via audio boards or CD-ROM with microphones for input and headphones for output, the audio-assisted computer is a virtual mini-media unit.

With the hookup of a special tape recorder to the computer, interactive audio provides multiple possibilities to teach and test active listening skills.In computer-assisted audio, the printed screen comes alive with sound for the acquisition of listening and speaking skills as well as reading and writing skills. In the case of video, the visual component, which is especially useful for cultural and paralinguistic information, is added to the oral/aural components of other technologies.

Regular linear video is most useful in developing listening skills and creating cultural awareness. Video with target language subtitles can also serve in developing reading skills.Video enables students to observe the dress, food, climate, and gestures of the target culture. When the power of a computer is added to video that is pressed onto a disc for instant access of sound, vision, and text, the resulting interactive videodisc system can provide practice in all of the language skills. Students” skills in listening and reading as well as in writing and speaking can be greatly enhanced when these latter options are available on an interactive compact disc program.

Given that language is an expression of culture, cultural aspects of the video segments can be highlighted using the CD program to provide a better context for communication. Once the specific technology and skills to be developed have been matched as outlined above, the specific courses and types of activities that are most appropriate must be selected or prepared. Traditional exercises provide various activities for the development of these skills, but technology-assisted activities can also be introduced into standard teaching techniques to enhance language learning.These activities would be made more readily available through the use of information technologies which increase productivity with respect to exposing the student to the following second language formation activities: a. Speaking Dialogues can be effectively used in developing speaking skills. Use of an interactive audio program allows students to create dialogues and to practice them with other students. Other task-based speaking activities can also be used effectively with interactive audio programs.

Listening Videotapes or interactive Compact Discs can provide excellent listening comprehension activities, given a good listening guide prepared for the students. Depending on the language level, students listen for just the main idea of a segment, or they listen for specific facts in the video program. Neither textbooks nor technology can replace the live, un-programmed feedback and interaction of the language teacher.

One of the more enduring misconceptions is that raising children bilingually confuses them and inhibits their cognitive development.This misconception, bolstered by several generations of flawed research, continues to underlie much of the opposition to bilingual education and has resulted in generations of language minority parents being admonished not to speak to children in their native language at home, even when parents have little ability in English. It is also often argued that the best way to promote literacy is to push people into English-only immersion programs. However, again, neither the historical record nor the research supports this view.Current research on bilingual education for children and for adults indicates that the bilingual education approach is generally more effective than the English-only approach if learners are put into comparable programs with comparable resources. Further, children taught in their native language develop higher levels of proficiency in their native language than those who are directly immersed in English, and bilingualism and illiteracy are positive outcomes of any educational program.The persistence of the myth of English monolinguals in this country reflects the belief that English is the only language that counts and the mentality that language diversity is a problem rather than a resource. Most national literacy estimates in the United States are based solely on English abilities, and this tends to inflate the perception that there is a literacy crisis.

In order to promote English literacy and biliteracy, the extent and implications of language diversity in the United States need to be understood.