An Overview of Bilingual Education

An Overview of Bilingual Education


Psychologists say that learning a second language develops cognitive advantages that improve student’s attention span, self-control and the ability to deal with conflicting information. That is why teachers are now focusing on bilingual education across the entire world. Education is a long term process and involves much more than just learning the English language. The role of school is to teach students the skills that will prepare them for life and not just for examination and job.

Objective of bilingual education

Bilingual education to an extent accomplish this task. It teaches children their native language while they’re learning English language. After several years, students transit into English-only classes. It has been observed that if the teaching instruction is in English language only from the beginning, it becomes difficult for the immigrant children to cope up with the language. They initially remain confused and fall behind and never recover the lost ground.

Establishing bilingual education program was an attempt to bring education to students who had special needs. However, today, bilingual education aims to meet students at their level where they should be. Also the teachers should be able to communicate with their parents and explain how they can help their children with education. This was done to prevent students fall several grades behind their peers. The students are expected to know enough English to keep up in all their subjects and will no longer require instruction in their native language.

Composition of bilingual education

When schools provide education to children in their native language, they give them to important things – knowledge and literacy. Knowledge through first language helps make the English they hear and read more comprehensible. Literacy developed in the primary language gets transferred to second language. It is easier to read and learn in a language that we understand. And once students’ starts reading in one language, they can read in general.

Bilingual education program include the following subject matter

  • English as a second language (ESL) class
  • Sheltered subject matter teaching
  • Instruction in the first language.

Non-English-speaking children initially receive instruction in primary language along with ESL instruction. Gradually when they become more proficient in English, they start learning subjects using more contextualized language including math and science. In the advanced level of learning, the only subjects taught in the first language are those that demands the most abstract use of languages such as language art and social studies.

The values of bilingual education

Learning different languages other than English helps student get enough opportunities to learn and accept the culture associated with that language. Understanding cultural values is imperative as it is the only way society can experience a decrease in ethnic and racial stereotypes. With bilingual education, students can have access to other language’s literature that can help them to be well rounded rather than being limited to the literature of a single language. Also, by learning native language, children can protect their own sense of identity that is usually linked to the language. Native language help children retain an important link to their cultural heritage.

Brain researchers believe that juggling with two languages strengthen the brain system to help people pay attention. The capacity to focus more leads to better academic performance in children who grow up bilingual or participate different language immersion programs. Psychologists found that bilinguals are even efficient in solving mental competition.

Academic language take five to seven years to develop. It even takes much longer for a child to catch up with the academic English and complex languages they need in the classroom. When they fail to communicate in the same languages used by the monolingual peers, there’s a possibility for them to be missing out on core curriculum, especially with common core standards through which all children are judged uniformly. For instance, a Chinese speaking student will not have the same access if all the instruction is in English.

Putting it all together

Children learn more effectively if they learn English through the use of their native language. It provides them a contextual basis of learning and allows them to keep pace with their peer group while at the same time acquire the language they need to learn in order to interact effectively in today’s society.


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