Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Agenda for Bilingual Education

From the new Education Agenda of the Obama administration:

Support English Language Learners: Obama and Biden support transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school.

Now I am not a big fan of transitional bilingual education programs. My concern is that they are not optimum for producing bilingual and biliterate citizens. If these programs are designed to simply teach children English then there are probably better, more effective ways of doing that. After all, in order to teach a target language, shouldn't instruction be mostly in that language? Children also don't attain the advantages of full biliteracy because, in transitional programs, instruction in their native language is cut short, not usually continuing past the third grade.

Transitional Bilingual Education seems to be the program of choice for politicians as it is the least threatening form of bilingual education. We can safely say to our more conservative counterparts that we support transitional bilingual education because it helps transition immigrants into mainstream English classes. I wish, for once, that we could say that we support bilingual education because we want all of our citizens to be bilingual. If that were actually the case then Transitional Programs would probably not be our priority. We would focus our energy on expanding dual-immersion programs, in which English-speakers and speakers of another language would be mixed together in order for both groups to become bilingual.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy that bilingual education is even on the agenda. But I would be even happier if we could take that next step and ensure that all children in the US had the opportunity to learn another language. Of course, with Obama in the White House, I still have HOPE!

1 comment:

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