Informative Essay on Bilingual Education

Bilingual education is unquestionably a controversial issue. There are several people and organizations in this country, who, for various reasons are opposed to bilingual education. In today’s society regarding education there has been a big issue about whether bilingual education should be taught in classrooms for immigrant students who do not speak English. Bilingual education began about 1967 as an effort to help immigrants, (mostly Spanish speakers) to learn English (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates).

Bilingual Education involves teaching two languages to the students. Many persons believe that bilingual education means Spanish and English only, but bilingual could be any two languages. There is a common problem where many parents are against bilingual education because many students are forced into Spanish bilingual classes because they have Spanish surnames, even though they understand and speak English well and they do not speak or read Spanish (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates).

I have found throughout my studies in bilingual education that a lot of students are placed in bilingual classes because the parents fill out a home language survey stating that the home language is Spanish. Little do the parents know that this is what determines what type of class their child will be in. This is causing many problems for children that are being forced into bilingual classes even when they are not immigrants. The promoter of bilingual education was the German language, because in 1837 students were required to take German in school at least one year (Eva Giles).

But one of the most common bilingual programs here in South Texas is Spanish and English. A research states that “Nearly one in every six school age children in the United States come from a home where a language other than English is regularly spoken” (Eva Giles). “By some estimates, English is spoken today by one million people and two thirds learned it as a second language” (James Crawford). Secretary of Education T. H. Bell remarked that the support of the government for bilingual education grew from $7. 5 million in 1969 to $134 million in 1982 and it provides help for between 1. million to 3. 5 million children (Hoover, The case for and against Bilingual Education). There are many reasons why bilingual education is not effective for many people. First of all, the schools that have bilingual education do not have certified teachers. The problem that I have seen most too often is that many people are going through an alternative program to become a teacher, where they have no schooling in bilingual education and they don’t understand the concept of how it works, nor do they understand the laws.

A person that has a degree in criminal justice, per se, goes through a 5 month program, takes a test, and is then considered to be a bilingual teacher. It is very common, here in south Texas where I live, that people that have gone through the ACP certification are being chosen over traditional college path teachers. Bilingual education is controversial for the simplest reason that it disrupts established patterns in school. For many schools, it can cause many headaches because they need to recruit more qualified teachers, redesign curricula, and reorganize class schedules, so many administrators want to avoid that.

The monolingual teachers fear the reassignment, loss of status, or other career setbacks (Crawford). Because many schools do not have qualified teachers, the students get behind in their studies because they do not learn either English or Spanish (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates). Moreover, many parents complain that their children on a regular school day are exposed mostly to Spanish and only few minutes to English (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates). This is because the immigrants are mixed with the non-immigrants and the teachers focus more on the immigrant students so they can learn English.

Furthermore, the students get confused in their writing in Spanish and English. For example, a child was enrolled in bilingual education only because he/she has a Spanish surname even though he spoke only Spanish, and by the seventh grade the child could not read or write either English or Spanish (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates). On the other hand, many states reported on an average annual increase of 9. 2 percent in the enrollment of limited English proficient students (Crawford).

If we do not have more certified teachers in our schools most of the students would have a high rate of falling behind, failing and dropping out of school. Language minority youths are 1.5 times more likely than the English language counterparts to have discontinued school before completing twelve years, according to the Intercultural Development Research Association. In 1988 the Hipic youths were more than twice likely to have dropped out. Therefore if we do not have certified teachers to teach the children we are going to have more uneducated children (Crawford).

The solution to this problem about not having many certified teachers in our schools is that we need to train the teachers that we already have with some programs that they need to be a certified teacher. “Bilingual programs, in order to be effective, must be able to attract and retain a teaching staff sufficient in numbers and qualify to meet the needs of the children enrolled in the program. ” (Del Valle, Franco, Garcia). A teacher in the bilingual program must master a subject, possess the skills to teach the subject well, and also have mastered two languages as well to be familiar with the children’s culture.

Moreover, a bilingual teacher must meet five criteria, and all are very important for them to be an efficient teacher. The five criteria are:

  1. The teacher must be fluent in English.
  2. The teacher must be fluent in Spanish.
  3. Mastery of the content area to be taught; e. g. science, history etc.
  4. Mastery of the teaching skills necessary to teach content area.
  5. Well information and complete understanding of the child’s culture, custom, and history (Del Valle, Franco, Garcia).

Many schools might have to go to another country to recruit bilingual teachers; they go to Puerto Rico or even to Latin American because the United States has a diversity of cultures and it is much easier for a teacher from other countries to come to the United States and teach because they already know the culture of the student, and the students feel more comfortable and learn more. Furthermore, the second reason why bilingual education is not efficient for many people is because they do not have enough research on it.

Many people do not know about all of the help that there is in schools for all immigrant students that came from other parts of the world. Parents do not get involved in their child’s studies or know what classes they are taking especially when they are in middle school or high school. “Many advocates of bilingual education fear that any government recognition of minority languages ‘sends a wrong message’ to immigrants encouraging them to believe they can live in the United States without learning English or conforming to

Americans’ ways” (Bilingual Education). Many parents believe that enrolling their children in only English classes will help them to improve in their language. For example, there is a case in California where the government is going to enforce a new program called Ballot Initiative, which would mandate English only instruction for children until they become fully proficient in English (Bilingual Education). But parents do not see all those programs that they have in schools to help their children improve in English without getting frustrated because they do.

Parents should think about all the frustration that their children are dealing with because they are enrolling them in English classes even if they do not know the language. This is why they need to be made aware of all the programs that the schools have to offer to assist the students that do not speak English. The solution to this kind of problem in the schools is a program called late and early transition that helps the students who receive instructions in their native language during the early years of schooling eventually “transition” into mainstreaming English. William M. Saunders, Claude Goldenberg. ) Transition programs can occur anywhere from the early elementary grades to middle school or later in high school; it all depends on the school program when the student starts. Transition programs are three year program constants that approach the Spanish to English development in grades 3-5 and transition programs compromise 12 specific components falling in to three categories:

  1. Literature studies (literature units, instructional conversations, writing projects).
  2. Skill building (reading comprehension, reading, dictation, and oral English).
  3. Supporting Components (reading, reading aloud, and writing journals).

A transition program is divided into three parts; Pre-Transition, Transition I, and Transition II. A Pre-Transition program is considered for the students in the third grade. Its purpose is to emphasize the fundamental role of Spanish reading and writing and oral English development that precedes transition and the goal is that by the end of the year the student should read and write Spanish, and a certain level of oral English.

The second part of the transition program is called Transition I and it is used in the fourth grade. It is designed to make clear the need of an actual program for a certain time. By the end of fourth grade or Transition I, students should show at least initial reading and writing fluency in English. Moreover, the student should be able to participate in discussions in English and the student should also continue to demonstrate a good level in writing and reading in Spanish used in language arts throughout the entire year. The last part of the program called Transition II is used in the fifth grade.

This last part of the program is where the students should be decoding and comprehends grade level materials in English, which mean in literature and content areas (Saunders). According to many teachers in California, bilingual transition programs work very well in schools where they have positive teachers that want to help the student and where the first language is used in the first year (Stephanie Krasren). One of my solutions for bilingual education is to implement more programs for older students as high school students.

Right now we do not have enough programs that help those students and that is why we have a lot of college students that do not know how to write or read English or Spanish. In our high schools there is not enough emphasis in programs for high school students because many teachers believe that the students already know English because they attended elementary and middle school. Sometimes it doesn’t cross teachers minds that many students came to the United States when they were 16 and older and they had finished elementary or middle school in Mexico or other places.

When they come to high schools here in the United States they do not know English. The program that I would implement for high school immigrant students that do not know any English would be called Older Transition. It would be separated in two parts, the first one being Older Transition I. It would be for ninth grade. The student would have a special teacher in separate classrooms, a teacher that helps them learn the basic English language and as the year goes by to improve their English in all subjects, so the student can be familiarized with the language.

The second part would be called Older Transition II and would be for tenth grade immigrant students. The students would be placed in regular classes so they can be familiarized with how the classes work and begin taking the TAKS test that they need in order to graduate. Also the student would be required to participate in school activities so they can be involved with the language and improve their skills. If we would have more programs like this, many students would be beneficiated and wouldn’t feel left out and they would have a better future with more opportunities.

These days, many jobs require applicants to be bilingual. “Businesses, especially telephone companies here in Texas and California are seeking for bilingual employees” (Hoover, Bilingual Education Advocates). Moreover, Texas and California have a high percentage of immigrants and Hipics, which is why many companies ask the employee if they can speak Spanish and English. According to Hoover, English is the widely used language in history also; English in the language of Science technology, and business (Bilingual Education Advocates).

Furthermore, right now in this society we have a high call for merchants, bankers, and diplomats able to speak two languages. Therefore, if programs like this would be enforced in many high schools many students would have a better future and they would not have problems in college. The opposite view about my solution of implementing more transition programs for high school students is that many high schools do not have enough funds to be spending in transition programs.

Moreover, many principals say that high schools do not receive money to have special teacher or train the teachers that the schools already have to teach the immigrant students that do not speak English. I believe that schools have enough money to spend to train teachers and programs because they have enough money to spend in athletics and other elective courses. Many high schools put more interest in athletics or any other activities than in the improvement of the student’s studies.

To reiterate, whether bilingual education is effective or not for immigrant students who do not speak English is up to the schools and how they approach the effectiveness of the bilingual programs. After reading much information about bilingual education, I have come to a conclusion; if we have more certified teachers who care and help the students with the English skills and if the schools implement more programs to help immigrant students, we are going to have a nation with many bilingual people who would help others. Moreover, we are going to have a better future for the kids of tomorrow.

I encourage many teachers to support more bilingual programs and talk with their principals about them and put them into practice in the classrooms. A lot of this implementation starts with the district, of course, but sometimes certain districts don’t want to implement the bilingual programs and are just receiving the money for it. This is where the schools need to step up and implement the programs and possibly make a call to the TEA and make sure that the district starts following the rules. It all begins with one person making the difference and then it goes from there.

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