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What is the state of bilingual education in the United States?

I am writing a research paper on the state of the American education system. What is the state of bilingual education in the US and what efforts have been made to make the situation better in our schools? Is language one of the major problems with American education and what steps are being taken to rectify that? What other critical issues in education do we face as a country and what progress has been made to remedy the situation in schools? Federal, state laws etc.?

Samantha Barber

in Education News

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Bethany Evans on February 2, 2018

Speaking as an immigrant who came to the US when I was 10 and having undergone the challenges that you are speaking about, I understand how the system has let down most students who don’t enjoy American English as a native language. By education in bilingual format I take it you mean teaching a course or a class in two languages at the same time? I could be wrong but I do know systems exist especially for kids who don’t have English as a native language, to teach both in English and in their native language. The idea would be for the student not to fall behind in their studies as teaching them purely in English would mean they may not understand some concepts. For example, I came from Peru with little working knowledge of English and I really had to struggle to catch up with my classmates who were perfect in English. I even had problems with my teachers and I literally had to work twice as hard to understand the lessons. Despite that, my dad who was perfectly fluent in English spent at least two hours each day taking me through intense English study and after a year, I had caught up. We couldn’t afford a tutor but at least I was lucky enough to get someone who could tutor me. What about thousands of other students like me though?

Which brings me to your question of American education system problems. Yes, non-nativity in schools is a big challenge especially for minority communities like myself. In Peru, I had seen some classes offer teaching in both English and Latin, except here English was the minority language. The effect was that student could express themselves and understand concepts in both languages. Here in the US, I didn’t see the same thing. Instead, emphasis was placed on us learning English in a sort of ‘special needs’ environment, thus you’d develop in English but wouldn’t be able to express the same concept well in your native language. I think language is one of the education critical issues which needs to be addressed. The federal government places priority of learning English as the main language of instruction but that should not blot out training in the recipient’s native language. Maybe there should be select schools that offer bilingual training in English and other languages so as to be fair to thousands.

Kurt Pricea year ago

Language, broadly classed under special needs is one of the critical issues in education in America today, and though several efforts have been made to address the challenge, we’re still far from a comfortable solution. The Bilingual Education Act did exist and it did recognize the need to train students who had little training in the English language. That was written off and replaced by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, which offers little support to native language learning, instead shifting the bias to general special needs with English language difficulty as one of these. California is a pleasant exception because non English learners can be placed in an English immersion class for a period not exceeding one year and then be transferred to a mainstream class. This still doesn’t address the challenge of thousands of English-challenged students, especially new immigrants. Some charter schools offer bilingual classes though.


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