If The World Could Learn Together
Research suggests that by 2050, more than one-third of students in the U.S. under 17 “will either be immigrants themselves or the children of at least one parent who is an immigrant.” But education for immigrant students has long been an issue for America, and the increasing number of immigrant students only expedites the need for a proper system that supports their specific conditions.
When immigrant students first arrive in the U.S., they often have to drop a grade level to accommodate for their English skills. Even though they might already be ahead in subjects like math and science, they have to spend extra time catching up with English, humanities, and brushing up their language skills in general.
As a solution, many schools provide ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) lessons or extra language help after school. However, this is not the most effective way to help, as students often have to do extra work. Language learning in schools is slow and tedious, focused on rote memorization, and it doesn’t always directly translate to the academic work they are doing in their other classes. Because of this, many students develop low confidence and are at higher risk of dropping out. No matter how smart or outgoing the students are, the inability to communicate their thoughts can be detrimental both academically, socially and mentally.
Some schools provide bilingual education for specific groups, while others try to support a more diverse, international student group. The Internationals Network for Public Schools attempts to combat the challenges immigrant students face by establishing international high schools that integrate language learning into all their courses, explaining relevant language and grammar as they proceed with every subject.
According to their graduation statistics in NYC, the approach seems to be successful. There was a significant increase in the percentage of graduates at these schools compared to those English-language learners citywide. However, some argue that these schools only serve to isolate these immigrant children from native English-speakers.
An alternative solution for the future may lie in technology and a new kind of hyper-personalized education. There are many hopes for what education can become with the aid of technology in the future, and many schools and online learning centers are already reaping the benefits. However, the type of hyper-personalization described in this article can perhaps be the most valuable for these immigrants students. The computer system can learn the students specific language needs and weaknesses, providing them the right resources and practice — materials that allow them to use familiar languages and concepts to boost understanding and suit the student’s own learning style, and connecting them with tutors or similar students that can help each other learn.
In this version of education, teachers do not become irrelevant. In fact, now they can focus more on the specific needs of each student, providing motivation and curating a supportive emotional and social environment, developing group projects that help students learn to communicate and collaborate with others, and even teach them necessary professional and life skills.
What do you think? Could technology be the solution to our language problems? Or are there potential pitfalls that are more detrimental than they’re worth?