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Immersion versus bilingual

November 26, 2011

Debating the Efficacy of Bilingual Education Programs

West Chester : PA : USA | Oct 31, 2011 at 11:24 AM PDT

The debate on how best to educate ELL students continues, with little promise of a clear-cut way to proceed emerging anytime soon. At the same time, the diversity of languages of spoken in U.S. schools continues to expand. Languages include Spanish, Hmong, Urdu, Russian, Chinese, Polish, Korean, Tagalog, Swahili and more. Achieving the goal for all students to obtain a satisfactory level of learning is often compromised by the cultural, social, and language differences among various groups. The inability to come to grips with how to best approach the learning needs of ELL student’s,places them at greater risk of falling behind.

The original enthusiasm for bilingual programs has diminished, as these programs are now criticized as being ineffective. Support for the immersion model has declined, as initial supporters now believe ELL students simply aren’t learning English quickly and thoroughly enough. They now suggest that the immersion program does not facilitate the ELL students’ ability to cope with the American culture, not just in school, but also beyond school boundaries. The slower learning curve experienced by ELL students in immersion programs may plague them for the rest of their lives.

This belief is based on research that suggests Hispanics who were in school from the 1970s through the 1990s, and who were in bilingual programs earned less money on average than Hispanic students educated during the same period in an English-only setting. Hispanic high school dropouts which were in English-only classrooms are also fewer in number and more likely to return to school later. Immersion makes it difficult for the teacher to provide support for all students’ needs. In the case of a complex assignment such as a research paper, language and usage are challenging even for fluent students. The further complication of using a second language puts ELL students at a serious disadvantage, without special support. The immersion method of teaching is yet to establish itself as an effective program for minority students.

Read more here.

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