Failure of Bilingual Education in America

Bilingual education entails using two languages – a secondary and
native language- to teach academic content. The amounts of each language
vary in relation to the program model. Bilingual education works on the
theory that, the youngsters whom English is not their first language can
be taught the school disciplines in their local language while
separately taking up English classes instead of being subjected to the
English education from day one. New arrivals from the Spanish speaking
nations have been at the core of bilingualism. However, the problem
expanded to include youngsters from the Middle East, Asia, as well as
other backgrounds. Lastly, it also included children born in America
whose first language is English. Most bilingual programs use the Spanish
language (Ovando, 17-24). Nevertheless, some programs use Chinese,
Navajo, Armenian, and over a hundred other languages.
In the United States, the main focus of the Bilingual education on
English Language Learners. As stated by (Collier, 23-26), a bilingual
education program refers to “an educational program for the limited
English proficient youngsters”. Limited English proficiency is a term
that has lost favor to many, but is still being used by the federal
government. The term has lost favor because many scholars feel that the
term English Language Learners reflects the language acquisition more
accurately. As such, the term English Language Learners has been deemed
ideal for referring to students whom English is not their native
language within the educational research and schools. Therefore they
have been offered support to excel in school.
The proponents of the movement in the United States state that they will
work to ensure that the children who do not speak English do not lag
behind English speaking counterparts in science, social studies and math
in their attempt to learn English. The process of learning a new
language and literacy at the same time is a tiresome task. As such the
bilingual programs are meant to help the students learn the local
language literacy first. According to studies, skills literacy developed
in native language transfers to English. Those in opposition of the
bilingual education claim that it delays English mastered by the
students, thereby slowing down the learning of other school disciplines
as well. California has the most registered students in bilingual
classes. The area has also faced significant arguments for and against
bilingual education.
Bilingual Education Program Models
Bilingual education has a number of program models. They include
transitional bilingual education. It entails education in the native
language of a child for over three years to ensure that the non-English
speaking children perform the same as their counterparts in mathematics,
social studies and science while learning English. Studies indicate that
the skills learned in ones first language can easily be transferred
secondary language. The main aim is to ensure that students transit to
mainstream English only classes in a short time. On the other hand the
goal of these programs is the acquisition of English only. The
transitional bilingual program uses the native language of the student
to drive the development of literacy skills and the acquisition of
academic knowledge. Generally, it is used to build up academic and
literacy skills in the local language.
Dual Language or Two-Way Immersion Bilingual Education. The program is
meant to help both the English non- speaking and speaking students be
biliterate and bilingual. The Dual Language bilingual immersion program
has 90 per cent of the instructions in grade K-1 in minority language
which is less supported by the broader society and 10 per cent in the
majority language (Swain, 86-101). The proportion varies in the majority
language up until the curriculum is equally divided in the language by
at least grade five. The program is based on the principle of
separating both languages of instructions. Apparently, teachers do not
translate or repeat the discipline content in the secondary language.
However, they enhance the ideas taught in one language across both
languages in a spiral curriculum so as to offer a cognitive challenge
(Rossell & Baker, 64). Instructions languages are alternated by content
area or theme. The immersion type is necessary to create the dual
language proficiency since social language can be learned in a number of
years, whereas a level of competency is needed to solve mathematics
problems or read social studies about 5 to 7 years.
The Dual Immersion program model enhances the development of a native
language of a student. This contributes significantly to the heritage
language development while allowing the non- English speaking students
to remain in class with their counterparts thus enhancing linguistic and
social cultural advantage (Sally, 246-247). Currently, the Two-Way
immersion program has been largely adopted in the US in 10 distinct
languages. Besides, bilingual education has a type of dual language
program whereby students study in two ways. One, the students are taught
in their second language by teachers who understand the student’s
first language. Second local language literacy classes enhance the
writing skills of the student in their native language. After all, the
skills taught in the first language can easily be transferred to the
second language. Developmental or Late-exit Bilingual Education.
The child is taught in his/her native language for some time and then
taught in English. The main aim here is to first develop literacy in the
native language of the child first and later transfer the skills to the
secondary language. The programs that have failed continue to live even
after their failure is quite obvious for instance the bilingual
education. The New York State Supreme Court failed to address a case
filed by families in Brooklyn, Bushwick Parents Organization v. Mills.
Most of the families were Hispanic and they wanted to save their
children from the bilingual bureaucracy. The parents argued that the
programs had left their sons and daughters illiterate in both languages.
According to recent studies, if students are given more instruction in
English, the more easily they learn the language.
The Need for Change in Bilingual Education
Currently, many discussions have been ongoing regarding bilingual
education. In a case between Horne v. Flores, the United States Supreme
Court ruled in favor of Structured English Immersion (SEI) as academic
research shows that it is considerably more efficient than bilingual
education (Amselle 18-21). Most people have opposed the effectiveness of
bilingual education citing various limitations and this has called on
the need for change. For instance, some opponents put forth that
learners with supplementary languages in addition to Spanish are put in
Spanish classes instead of being taught in their instructed in their
indigenous languages and most bilingual education programs do not teach
English language to students (Sally 246-247). Opponents of bilingual
education argue that studies that support bilingual education utilize
poor methodologies besides having petite empirical support favoring it.
In spite of the fact that bilingual educations programs are intended to
have good intentions, critics argue that in the contemporary society,
they are more harmful than beneficial to students.
Bilingual education is said to have decentralized non-English students
into a ‘linguistic prison’. Rather than teaching students English in
order to help them enter the normal American life, research indicates
that most of the bilingual programs in the contemporary day have turned
out to be long-lasting exercises teaching students in their native
languages (Sally 246-247). The adverse outcome is that numerous students
fail to learn English language, which is perceived as a “ticket to the
American Dream”.
An increasing number of different detractors have continually lambasted
the efficacy of bilingual education program, which is federally-funded.
Some call it a ‘bilingual prison’ and others a ‘bilingual sand
trap’ for students especially the Hispanics, who are the main victims
of the failed program. Another reason of the need for change in
bilingual education is that students stay for a long time in bilingual
education. Students are required by state law to receive a maximum of
three years. It is however apparent that the majority of Hispanic
children stay for seven years in bilingual education programs, although
Russian and Asian students move fast into English classes. Complaints
have been received from parents some saying that their children have
remained in the bilingual program (which is considered to be a
transitional program) for nine years. Studies show that students who
stay longer in the linguistically isolated bilingual programs do not do
well in their school work (Porter 25-31). They are slow to connect with
English-language program as compared to students who are taught English
as a Second Language (ESL).
These predicaments have made many people including parents to get
involved, some challenging the efficiency of bilingual education
programs. Parents require their children to be brought out of the
“bilingual prison”. The state education commissioner has been sued
by the Bushwick Parents Organization for purportedly permitting numerous
students to remain in the bilingual education classes for more than
three years (Rossell and Baker 7-74). In addition, parents have
protested in the local schools claiming the lack of English teaching. In
a nutshell, parents, teachers association, as well as other critics
think that bilingual education is not efficient enough and fail to serve
its function of teaching students English language. As a result, they
argue that bilingual education programs need to be changed and replaced
with more effective programs.
One of the programs that can be used in place of bilingual education is
English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. These programs offer
“sheltered English learning” support to students who English is not
their first language. ESL is deemed to be efficient in instructing both
academic and English subjects. For instance, after the “English for
the Children” program was passed in California, most classrooms in Los
Angeles turned out to be awesomely English language (Rebell and Murdaugh
335-390). Results revealed that language minority student improved
significantly in their English language after standardized test scores
were analyzed. ESL programs have proved to teach English to non-native
students. A longitudinal study carried out by the READ Institute
confirmed that content based and thorough English coaching from the
initial school day, as well as early growth of English literacy for
non-native students generates better and comparable outcomes in all
grades (Ovando1-24). ESL aims at building on the English already known
to the students and is generally employed with students with different
native languages.
Other teaching methods that stress on the importance of English language
instruction need to be employed as substitutes for bilingual education.
Some schools for instance are totally doing away with the bilingual
teaching approach and undertaking novel alternatives to assist
language-minority children be taught English. An “English Acquisition
Program” which is employed by schools in Pennsylvania and Bethlehem is
very effective compared to bilingual education (Swain 89-104). This
program help students whose English is not their first language learn
English. This program ensures that all academic courses are instructed
in English and students requiring extra assistance are provided with an
hour or two of English language instruction. The program aims at moving
all students into normal teaching classes after a period of three years.
The employment of these alternative programs assists students in
becoming fully proficient in understanding English lessons after being
taught for three years. This enables them to move faster into the normal
English language teaching as compared to bilingual students. In a
nutshell, states practicing bilingual education needs to find solutions
of reforming the education system to ensure efficiency. This includes
trying novel approaches such as ESL program or English Acquisition
Works Cited
Amselle, Jorge, ed, The Failure of Bilingual Education. Washington, DC:
Center for Equal Opportunity. 1995. Print.
Collier, Virginia P, “Acquiring a Second Language for School”.
Directions in Language & Education – National Clearinghouse for
Bilingual Education 1 (4). 1995. Print.
Ovando, Carlos J. “Bilingual Education in the United States: Historical
Development and Current Issues”, Bilingual Research Journal, 27(1),
1-24.2003. Print.
Porter, Rosalie. P., Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education,
2nd Edition. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. 1995. Print.
Rebell, Michael. A. and Murdaugh, Anne. W., “National Values and
Community Values, Part II: Equal Educational Opportunity for Limited
English Proficient Students.” 21 Journal of Law & Education 3,
335-390.1992. Print.
Rossell, Christine. and Baker, Keith, “The Educational Effectiveness
of Bilingual Education.” 30 Research in the Teaching of English 1,
7-74.1996. Print.
Sally Peterson, `A Practicing teacher`s View on Bilingual Education The
Need for Reform,` Learning in Two Languages, edited by Gary Imhoff, pp.
246-247. Print.
Swain, Merill, Discovering successful second language teaching
strategies and practices: From program evaluation to classroom
experimentation.” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development,
17,” 89-104.1996. Print.