All Programs are NOT equal

When we hear the word “bilingual education”, we all have our own idea about what that means. What most people do not know is that there are so many facets of bilingual education. There are some that place an emphasis on the dominant language of a society, and there are some that don’t. There are some whose main objective is to have minority students assimilate to the dominant culture, and there are some that place a higher value on the maintenance and enrichment of the minority language. I will discuss several programs and talk about whether they are weak or strong models, as well as what the focus is on in the program

One program that is has been proven to be a weak form of bilingual education is the Transitional bilingual program. With this type of teaching, students who do not speak the majority language are separated from the classroom that is taught in the majority language, which in the United States is English. The goal of this program is to assimilate students into being relatively monolingual in the dominant language (Baker, 2011). There is no emphasis placed on maintaining or strengthening the minority language. It is forgotten and left in the wind, and for that reason, this is considered a weak form of bilingual education.

A bilingual program that is considered to be a strong form is Immersion. In this program, we see students who speak the dominant language and others who do not. The goal of the program is to immerse all students in the minority language and gradually increase the amount of English that is spoken (Baker, 2011).The end result is that students have been exposed to two languages and are bilingual as well as biliterate.

There is also the two way/ dual language program which students’ minority language as well as the dominant language are both enhanced and worked on. The aim of this program is for students’ language and literacy skills in both languages to be enriched (Baker, 2011). In class, students are exposed to both languages.

If we want to help out students to be better prepared for their future, placing them in any bilingual program will not do. We need to make sure that the program is strong, and aims for strong lingual and literary skills in both languages.

Baker, C. (20110). Foundations of bilingual education and bilinguism. Multilingual Matters Publications. New York, NY.