[lg policy] Bilingual Education Policy and Language and Literacy Aims

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 3 14:50:18 UTC 2010

Bilingual Education Policy and Language and Literacy Aims

by neoselfish in July 29th 2010Comments (1)

The primary differentiation among bilingual education policies and
programs relates to the aim of promoting bilingualism and biliteracy.
So-called mainstream bilingual programs, or immersion programs, hold
this aim for majority language children. Often, such programs are
those of choice for parents who can afford to provide their children
with an elite education.

Thus, unlike federally supported Title VII programs, which no longer
exist, there has been no stigma of deficiency associated with these
programs. There have been some attempts to combine biliteracy and
bilingualism as a goal for both majority and minority children. To
date, the most successful programs have fallen under the label of
“two-way” or “dual immersion.” From a policy standpoint, these
programs help to promote the status of minority languages; however,
this is not always achieved when languages other than English are
presented as “foreign” rather than as living community languages of
the United States and the world.

There has also been some concern that students in such programs can be
differentially positioned based on the perceived status of their
languages. For example, concerns have been raised that
Spanish-speaking students of lower socioeconomic status may be
“servicing” language majority English-speaking children by providing
them with native-speaker modeling of the target language. In other
words, in the programs’ implementation, the needs of children of the
majority are addressed, but not those of minorities.

Given the status differential between English and Spanish, there is a
need for programmatic policies that are designed to ensure that
students are treated equitably. A review of federal bilingual
education policy in the United States indicates that there is
substantial room for improvement if biliteracy and bilingualism are
valued as educational aims for both language minority children and the
general population.

There is a need to consider policies that promote both the individual
and societal benefits of bilingualism. Such policies also need to
ensure that language minority students have adequate access to a
quality education that includes the development of English for
successful participation in school and society. Moving beyond policies
that merely aim to accommodate immigrant and indigenous language
minority students, many believe that there is a need to develop and
implement policies that value community languages and expand national
language resources.

Such policies need to recognize the linguistic reality of a country in
which nearly 1 out of 6 people speak languages in addition to English.
Constructive language policies would also need to recognize that
languages other than English are used daily in the linguistic life of
the country. Policies based on our linguistic reality would do well to
acknowledge that the United States is not only among the largest
English-speaking nations in the world-rivaled only by India, a
multilingual nation with millions who can speak English-but that it
also has millions who can speak Spanish and numerous other indigenous
and immigrant languages and that these languages can be resources for
both language minority students and the nation as a whole.

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