Bilingual education. Constantly a topic of discussion, and more often, contention. After spending two years to gain a masters in bilingual education, you would think I have all the answers. Then I read an article, recently posted in the NY times. Obama is all for bilingual education (yes!!!) and making sure students are literate in their native language before embarking on their journey into biliteracy. YAY FOR COMMON SENSE! If you are illiterate in your native language, you have NOTHING to build on and use to help learn the second. This should be common sense. Apparently, however, in some public school in New York, English immersion has worked. Great. That is definitely a possibility. BUT…do they consider the students’ backgrounds? If students arrive literate, there is less issue (mind you, not NO issue) with English immersion, than if they have never been to school a day in their lives.
We all have a story about a family member or friend that didn’t get special schooling, but still managed to learn English. Great. Congratulations! Research clearly proves that those who receive support in their native language will actually do better in the second language.
Just think of all the immigrants you know. They are not dumb – in fact, many of them know way more than I do. They usually just don’t have the words to communicate. Therefore, it is quite obvious that students could succeed on the math portion of standardized tests, especially if there is little writing. That does not mean that could not use support in the primary language. Besides, every child has the right to maintain his native language and culture. More than a right, this of such importance – it is his identity, his connection to family and a connection to everything he was up to this point. To take these things away is to tell a child that his background and history are not valid. By doing that, you already lower his chances of success drastically.
Besides, what’s so bad about being bilingual or trilingual?? In fact, it is an advantage and a gift. Hells yeah to Obama for pushing bilingual ed.