Bilingual Education Structurally 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 finding qualified bilingual education teachers harder than it already is because educators have to work beyond finding bilingual instructors and truly test the credentials of the instructors. Having qualified bilingual teachers is extremely important in the instruction of language minority students and is evident in the following study done by Tesol Quarterly.The study was done over a five-day observational period and was used to test the effectiveness of bilingual education programs. The school Tosol’s research team visited, whose name was kept confidential, was located in a Hispanic section of a town (Lucas and Katz n.pag.
). In that particular school, 70% of the students were Hispanic, 10 % were Asian, 10% African American, and 10% were Anglo (Lucas and Katz n. pag.). Thus, the mainstream was Hispanic.
In the school, three Spanish-English bilingual teachers and two Spanish-English bilingual aids staffed the program (Lucas and Katz n. pag.). Because of their fluency, these teachers and aids could check comprehension or explain an activity to Spanish speakers with beginning-level proficiency in English.
The teachers at this particular school helped to make the program successful because without the proper instruction available to the large minority population, the students may have to settle for translators that simply convert English instruction over to the student’s native language. This does not give students the opportunity to actively take part in practicing English. In addition to being a highly qualified bilingual education teacher, a second thing that must be acquired is the awareness of the theories underlying many of the techniques they are encouraged to use with their students (Medina 640).
However, many of the current bilingual education programs employ teachers that do not meet those qualifications. In other words, they are not knowledgeable of practices and theological bases that are effective in instructing their students (Medina 640).The solution to such problems can lie in the idea that teachers should be provided with greater documentation of the effectiveness of theoretically sound techniques (Medina 640). If these teachers empowered themselves with the ability to conduct their own research in order to find out what instructional techniques would be the most beneficial for their students then they would most likely be of a better service to their students. The Spanish Dual Literacy Program or Mini School at Liberty High School in New York is a prime example of how proper and adequate methods of instruction and qualified teachers to implement the programs can tremendously benefit students learning a second language (Marsh 409).
In the bilingual education classroom, students work with bilingual teachers from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and the United States who are genuinely interested in the program and the learning students (Marsh 412). These dedicated teachers can build on their own bilingual experiences, develop relevant lesson plans, and use suitable and practical class activities and homework assignments (Marsh 412). Even though the success of this program is not solely due to the efforts of the staff, the progress made in the program is partly a result of the highly qualified teachers and their knowledge about what is effective and what is not effective in second language instruction.Unfortunately though, such exemplary programs like those of the test site for Tesol Quarterly and Liberty High School are not the norm for most bilingual education classrooms. Many programs lack qualified bilingual education teachers and the programs to make the instruction really work. As the bilingual education debate continues, one must not only assess the quality of teachers implementing the programs but also take into consideration the amount of time a students spends in the program.
According to Rosalie Pedalino Porter, board chairperson of th …