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Bilingual Education (2708 words)

Bilingual EducationStructurally Ineffective Bilingual education for language minority students is a controversial concept that invokes heated arguments among those people in and associated with many of the nation’s educational systems. Bilingual education, in most cases, is the instruction of a student’s core classes, such as history, math, and science, in his or her native language and the instruction of supplementary English as a Second Language course. For decades, much of the debate surrounding this type of bilingual instruction in classrooms with language minority students has focused on whether or not the students will learn English better by being completely immersed in English or by being initially instructed in their native language. Many English-only advocates and other opponents of bilingual education have passionately discredited its effectiveness and tend to argue that immersion quickens second language acquisition by stressing only the new targeted language. On the other hand, proponents of bilingual education claim that a gradual transition to English via native language instruction assures student success because the students will be able to use their previously acquired knowledge to help them learn the English language.
However, despite the well-intended concerns of the public and academic community, the controversy that swirls around second language acquisition does not focus on some of the aspects of bilingual education that should be improved in order to make the programs more effective. Although ample evidence favors bilingual education as a means to help students grow academically, structural flaws such as bilingual education programs that allow children to languish too long in ineffective or unsuitable programs and a lack of qualified teachers prevent many programs from accomplishing the most that they can accomplish. In order to address these issues, educators should pursue a focused debate that concentrates on how the English students will best acquire the skills and literacy that will benefit them in school and out of school instead of arguing whether bilingual education is detrimental or beneficial to language minority students.Bilingual education programs are most effective when the properly trained bilingual teachers are available to instruct the language minority students. In order to provide students with the most effective and most comprehensible methods of instruction, teachers need to be trained in such areas as combining English as a second language instruction with content area instruction. They need to be able to transform contemporary research on literacy and language acquisition into realistic instructional strategies. Finally, they need to be able to encourage students to think and reason and to use English to express their ideas. A combination of such abilities would make bilingual education instructors more productive in the classroom.
Unfortunately, some of the bilingual instructors are not sufficiently qualified for the job. The problem is especially acute in non-Spanish languages. Since the major minority population in the United States speaks Spanish, speakers of others languages are in smaller percentage in some schools. This situation poses the problem of finding bilingual teachers in other languages such as Vietnamese or Russian. The first struggle that school administrators must overcome is finding teachers that speak the minority language of a group of students in a particular school. Then once teachers are found they have to be evaluated as to whether they have the proper credentials and adequate training in second language acquisition for the job. In addition to the lack of highly qualified bilingual teachers in languages other than Spanish, the heavy demand for Spanish-language instructors creates many new problems as well. For example, one of the reasons that quality bilingual education teachers are so rare is that many school districts must pay a premium to attract bilingual teachers and some even have to go to foreign countries to try and recruit them (Chavez and Amselle 102).
However, this situation can ultimately lead to other complications and problems because some teachers are dishonest and have fraudulent credentials in order to get the paid premium and the job. For instance, the Houston Independent School District once unknowingly recruited teachers that had falsified college degrees and teaching certificates, cheated on competency tests, violated their visas and continued to work in the United States, and spoke no English (Chavez and Amselle 102). Such problems like those that Houston’s school district face, make


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