What is Bilingual Education?

Bilingual education is the process of teaching/learning in two languages. Usually, bilingual education is carried out in the language of the given country and in another language (the so-called home language). As you know, the United States is the country of immigrants and, thus, there are thousands of people speaking different languages. These people are considered to be English language learners because they are not proficient English speakers.

Bilingual education thus offers instruction in two languages one being the home language of those people (school pupils mainly) and the second one being English as a societal language.

The majority of English language learners are people whose home language is Spanish, though the number of Chinese language speakers is also huge. Bilingual education gives advantages to both English speakers and the newcomers because the two sides come to master two languages.

According to some sources, bilingual education in the United States of America has got a long history. However, according to some official data, it was not until 1968, when the US Congress passed the Bilingual Education Act. This Act is otherwise also known as Title VII of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Bilingual Education Act helped to establish educational programs for non-English speaking students.

Another important step towards the realization of bilingual education was that in 1974 the Supreme Court declared that calling school teaching minority students as “other students” was a violation of students’ rights.

Later on, the No Child Left behind Act of 2001 came to replace the Bilingual Education Act. According to this new Act, the states could choose how to deal with the second-language needs of English-language learners, provided that they established English proficiency standards, quality instruction in other subjects as mathematics, reading and so on. However, there are still states that have bilingual education programs that use both the home language and the English language during instruction.


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