After talking about the purpose of Bilingual Education in schools, I began to think about the realistic and practical ways that schools could best serve students of different ethnicities who spoke a different language. We certainly need to make sure that students who come to the US from different cultures receive equal opportunity to learn in our schools. The question is, what is the best way to give them these opportunities and what are the best options for this?
As far as a nationwide, federal, blanketing, general piece of legislation goes, Bilingual Education is doomed to failure. If we’ve learned anything from this class, it’s that the “one size fits all” approach to education is a bad idea. (Of course, we’ve learned much more than just that, Leigh, don’t worry…)
The problem with instituting a nationwide policy for Bilingual Education is the differences in the ethnic populations between different states and even different counties. With the presence of different ethnic groups speaking different languages from county to county and state to state, there may not be enough certified or licensed teachers for their specific language in the area in order to carry out Bilingual Education. For instance, in one community there may be a large Pakistani population, whereas there are no certified teachers who can speak in Urdu or Sindhi. In another county or state, there might be a large Chinese population, but no certified teachers who can speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
Because of these discrepancies, ELL/ESL classes are crucial. Since English is the standard language in which education is taught, we need to give students who cannot speak English the chance to learn it. The greatest advantage of this is that communities with a variety of ethnic groups – some possibly larger than others – are able to include every individual who needs help in learning English as a second, third, etc. language.
Now, that isn’t to say that Bilingual Education is completely out of the question. Certainly, there are communities in this country who have certified teachers available who can also speak the language of the ethnic group represented in the community. Bilingual Education is a fantastic way for students to retain their linguistic culture, and can help combat the eventual loss of native language acquisition in second, third, and fourth generation immigrants. However, Bilingual Education cannot cover the other students of different ethnic groups, so therefore, ELL/ESL must be provided for those noncovered groups, if not all groups.
The importance of ESL/ELL is also in its preparing of students for work and life outside the school. Like it or not, English is the most widely spoken language in this country, as well as the world. Should we teach our students to be multilingual? Absolutely. However, the common language of the world is English, and there must be some understanding of it in order for students to succeed once they leave the halls of their schools, whether to college, or the work force, or wherever they chose to go. ESL/ELL provides this necessary skill, whereas Bilingual Education somewhat discourages learning English in an educational and academic setting.
Think about it. If you move to a foreign country and begin an academic career, would it not be wise for you to learn the native language in order to better understand your teachers and peers? In the same way, it is in the best interests of students of different ethnic groups to be provided with ESL/ELL classes that help them not only succeed in the classroom, but to function as productive citizens in the real world.
Isn’t that one of the reasons why we go to school in the first place?