Which is better Immersion or Bilingual Education?
One in every nine students today speaks a native language other than English, and it has been predicted that within the next twenty years, non-English speaking students will become as common as one in every four students (Goldenberg 10). This raises a question of how to give students the best education while helping them learn English. There are two basic forms of education used in schools today for English language learners (ELLs), English immersion and bilingual programs. In an English immersion program most or all of the time is spent only learning English. In a bilingual Education programs students are taught content in the native language and learning English at the same time. The two main forms of bilingual education are traditional programs, the most common form of bilingual education which teaches in the native language and immerses ELLs in mainstream English classes after three years, and developmental bilingual education, which teaches in both the native language and English and lasts up to 7 years (Donagen 54). The idea behind English immersion is to gain English proficiency while bilingual education is to develop literacy in English and the native language.
English immersion supporters that that it is a more effective teaching method because students can learn English at a much quicker rate. Some students may not feel this way because the English they were learning was not the English that they would use in regular conversation, they would only use it in an academic setting. The supporters feel that bilingual education delays the learning because both the native language and English are used to teach. According to Dr. Goldenberg, Professor of Education at Stanford University, it generally takes at least 3 years to reach an intermediate level of proficiency (12). But in some states, including California and Arizona, students are required to attend mainstream English classes after only one year, which is why the rate of proficiency is so important (Goldenberg 12). With this idea non-English speakers are put into an English only classroom as soon as possible.
Students in English Immersion classes may learn the new language faster, but students may have problems with proficiency later. In the long run bilingual education may be more effective. Student learn at a slower pace and are able to communicate in their native language as well as in English creating more proficiency in both languages. Bilingual education is taught so that the language is learned in a content area while in contrast the immersion teaching is mainly focused on the language. Immersion supporters feel that English proficiency will come later if students are put in an immersion program as quickly a possible. Unfortunately learning a second language does not always work that way. Older second language learners who had at one point been in one or both types of programs felt that they had to work much harder to be proficient after an immersion program because of the short time they were in them. Where as in a bilingual program increasing proficiency in the native language and transferring the knowledge across to the second language creates better proficiency in both. . According to multiple studies performed by the National Literacy Panel, bilingual education promotes higher achievement levels in reading in the student’s second language (Goldenberg 14). When looking at a student it is important to look at the student’s limitations they may have in their native language. If the idea is to have long-term benefits then bilingual education can be better, while immersion programs might be better for a short-term benefit.
One main problem bilingual education has is the lack of qualified teachers It is much easier to find a teacher for an immersion program because they do not need to know the native language. Some districts require some training how to teach ELL’s but that may not have anything...
Cited: Donagen, Craig. “Debate Over Bilingualism.” CQ Researcher. (1996): 49-72. Web. 10 October, 2013.
Jost, Kenneth. “Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion.” CQ Researcher. (2009):1029-52. Web. 10 October 2013.
“Preparing to Serve English Language Learners.” Ies.ed.gov. Institute of Educational Sciences. (2005): 1-32. Web. 10 October 2013.
Goldenberg, Claude. “Teaching English Language Learners: What the Research Does – and Does Not – Show.” American Educator. (2008): 8-44. Web. 2013 Nov 20.
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