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The Pros of Bilingual Education (page 4)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Improving Bilingual Education

Bilingual education has done well, but it can do much better. The biggest problem, in this author's view, is the absence of books--in both the first and second languages--in the lives of students in these programs. Free voluntary reading can help all components of bilingual education: It can be a source of comprehensible input in English or a means for developing knowledge and literacy through the first language, and for continuing first language development.

Limited-English-proficient Spanish-speaking children have little access to books at home (about 22 books per home for the entire family according to Ramirez, Yuen, Ramey, & Pasta, 1991) or at school (an average of one book in Spanish per Spanish-speaking child in some school libraries in schools with bilingual programs, according to Pucci, 1994). A book flood in both languages is clearly called for. Good bilingual programs have brought students to the 50th percentile on standardized tests of English reading by grade five (Burnham-Massey & Pina, 1990). But with a good supply of books in both first and second languages, students can go far beyond the 50th percentile. It is possible that we might then have the Lake Wobegon effect, where all of the children are above average, and we can finally do away with the tests (and put the money saved to much better use).

References

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Cummins, J. (1989). Empowering minority students. Sacramento, CA: California Association for Bilingual Education.

Cummins, J., Swain, M., Nakajima, K., Handscombe, J., Green, D., & Tran, C. (1984). Linguistic interdependence among Japanese and Vietnamese immigrant students. In C. Rivera (Ed.), Communicative competence approaches to language proficiency assessment: Research and application, pp. 60-81. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters. (ED 249 793)

de la Pena, F. (1991). Democracy or Babel? The case for official English in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. English.

Gersten, R. (1985). Structured immersion for language-minority students: Results of a longitudinal evaluation. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 7(3), 187-196.

Hoover, W. (1982). Language and literacy learning in bilingual education: Preliminary report. Cantonese site analytic study. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (ED 245 572)

Krashen, S. (1996). Under attack: The case against bilingual education. Culver City, CA: Language Education Associates.

McQuillan, J., & Tse, L. (in press). Does research matter? An analysis of media opinion on bilingual education, 1984-1994. Bilingual Research Journal.

Porter, R. P. (1990). Forked tongue: The politics of bilingual education. New York: Basic Books.

Pucci, S. L. (1994). Supporting Spanish language literacy: Latino children and free reading resources in schools. Bilingual Research Journal, 18(1-2), 67-82.

Ramirez, J. D., Yuen, S., Ramey, D., & Pasta, D. (1991). Longitudinal study of structured English immersion strategy, early-exit and late-exit bilingual education programs for language-minority children (Final Report, Vols. 1 & 2). San Mateo, CA: Aguirre International. (ED 330 216)

Rodriguez, R. (1982). Hunger of memory: The education of Richard Rodriguez. An autobiography. Boston: D. R. Godine.

Rossell, C., & Baker, R. (1996). The educational effectiveness of bilingual education. Research in the Teaching of English, 30(1), 7-74.

Shin, F. (1994). Attitudes of Korean parents toward bilingual education. BEOutreach Newsletter, California State Department of Education, 5(2), pp. 47-48.

Shin, F., & Gribbons, B. (1996). Hispanic parents' perceptions and attitudes of bilingual education. Journal of Mexican-American Educators, 16-22.

Smith, F. (1994). Understanding reading: A psycholinguistic analysis of reading and learning to read (5th ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum.

Verhoeven, L. (1991). Acquisition of literacy. Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquee (AILA) Review, 8, 61-74.

Willig, A. (1985). A meta-analysis of selected studies on the effectiveness of bilingual education. Review of Educational Research, 55, 269-316.

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