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The factors affecting cost are numerous and not always easily identifiable; in addition to the purchasing of bilingual textbooks and other instructional supplies, there is often a perception that bilingual instruction leads to a greatly increased workload and number of class hours, and therefore a greater overall strain on the often-tight budgets of public education institutions and districts (Mora 2006). It is primarily the transitional costs, however, that many communities view as a barrier to implementing bilingual education; the reallocation of funds for such a purpose is highly unpopular in areas where students are not receiving basic educational needs already (Hu 2008; Mora 2006; NABE 2009).
The study conducted of Guatemalan bilingual education programs speaks to this issue to some degree, though its ramifications in that country are quite different tan what is seen in the United States. Patrinos and Velez (2009) found that educational costs in Guatemala were actually lowered in areas and communities that provided bilingual education programs simply due to the lower rates of students repeating courses or entire grades. That is, students receiving bilingual instruction performed so much better than those in Spanish-only settings -- and arguably those receiving Spanish-only instruction were so under-served -- that the costs of providing bilingual education were more than offset by the efficiency and success of the instruction (Patrinos & Velez 2009). In the United States, however, non-native English speakers not receiving bilingual education are more likely to drop out than repeat grades (Krashen 1997).
It must be admitted that, at least on the surface, considering bilingual education in the United States from a purely financial perspective leaves little doubt as to its inadvisability. Education, however, has never been solely or even primarily a financial concern, nor should it be viewed from such a perspective. The overall academic success that bilingual education programs have been shown to enhance makes the additional costs and/or the reallocation of financial and other resources to the development and implementation of such programs very worthwhile in the long-term (Krashen 1997; Tucker 1999; Patrinos & Velez 2009). Public education, especially in a democracy, is the very foundation of civil liberties and progression, and cost cannot be allowed to limit it.
Furthermore, it could also be argued that bilingual education programs actually provide an economic benefit to communities in the long-term. Though short-term savings like those described by Patrinos and Velez (2009) from the more efficient and effective education provided by bilingual instruction do not directly apply to the United States, the long-term benefits of having a more diversifiable workforce is sure to reap certain fiscal rewards (Mora 2006; NABE 2009). When more people are able to conduct business with other nationalities, cultures, and speakers of foreign languages, the better off the overall economy will be. Individual communities an also see their economic situation improve both by facilitating such business and encouraging it in their graduates, and in providing better schools through bilingual education programs that will attract more families to the community enabling growth.
The ultimate, and arguably the only, consideration in any change in public education policy needs to be whether or not that change will lead to a better education for the students involved. Financial and other practical considerations can be regarded as a necessary evil; the real world cannot change on a whim and where resources simply do not exist they cannot be easily conjured up, but if a change is necessary than the resources must be found or created somehow, regardless of the time or effort necessary to complete the task. Likewise, ideological concerns cannot be allowed to get in the way of a solid, complete, and beneficial education. Politics, whether individually or socially based, have no place in the education system, and bilingual instruction should not be stopped simply because some individuals feel that it will force a loss of their culture -- a successful culture needs to accept the realities of its situation.
The facts of the situation regarding bilingual education is that students emerge from classrooms and programs where bilingual instruction takes place better prepared to engage in a diverse world, and better prepared academically in general (CABE 2009; Krashen 1997; Patrinos & Velez 2009; Tucker 1999). There is some evidence that bilingual education actually makes students more receptive to new ways of thinking and new types of pattern perception, making learning and the analysis of data simpler tasks (Krashen 1997; Tucker 1999). With such obvious academic benefits, it is more than a little disconcerting that bilingual education programs are not more widespread. Though there are certainly legitimate concerns regarding the development and implementation of bilingual education programs, both practical and otherwise, such concerns are far outweighed by the benefits such education provides.
Bilingual education enhances both the individual students who receive bilingual instruction and the communities in which these students live. The rewards for the development and implementation of bilingual education programs are both esoteric in the form of increased academic ability and preparedness, as well as practical in the form of monetary gain over the long-term. Concerns regarding the loss or degradation of culture and heritage due to bilingual education are largely unfounded, and evidence shows that bilingual instruction actually enhances ties to cultural and linguistic heritage. Bilingual education will help to bring the world together, and to make it run smoother.
CABE. (2009). California association for bilingual education official website. Accessed 11 September 2009. http://www.bilingualeducation.org/
EPE. (2004). "English language learners." Editorial projects in education research center. Accessed 11 September 2009. http://www.edweek.org/rc/issues/english-language-learners/
Hu, G. (2008). "The misleading academic discourse on Chinese-English bilingual education in China." Review of educational reearch 78(20, pp. 195-231.
Krashen, S. (1997). "Why bilingual education?" ERIC digest. Accessed 11 September 2009. http://www.ericdigests.org/1997-3/bilingual.html
Mora, J. (2006). "Identifying fallacious arguments in the bilingual education debate." San Diego state university. Accessed 11 September 2009. http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/jmora/Prop227/BEFallacies.htm
NABE. (2009). National association for bilingual education official website. Accessed 11 September 2009. http://www.nabe.org/
Patrinos, H. & Velez, e. (2009). "Costs and benefits of bilingual education in Guatemala: A partial analysis." International journal of educational development, 29(6),…[continue]
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