Bilingual Education

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The Debate Between Bilingual Education and English Immersion Programs 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 (i.e., 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 (development)bilingual programs which are designed to preserve and develop student's primary language while they acquire English as a second language. Bilingual Program Models 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 (Ramirez, Yuen, & Ramey, 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 ESL programs (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(s) of...
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