Difference Between Bilingual Education and English As a Second Language Term Paper

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Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language

One among the many important topics in multiculturalism in the U.S. is centered on the many diverse languages in the country. One of the topics of quite often-heated discussion is the way in which English, as a language should be taught to Americans, whose mother tongue is not English. This is particularly so with foreign immigrants as their assimilation of English eases their assimilation into the culture of America. The number of immigrants is increasing day by day especially from Asia and Asian immigrants constitute more than twenty five percent of all foreign immigrants. Each state has to decide how these immigrants are educated in English. (A Critique of Transitional Bilingual Education and English Immersion)

Bilingual education is a topic that is very controversial in the current American education scenario. It was initially legislated as a language tool to solve the problem of Hispanic performance. Those that supported it argued that students with limited English proficiency would find it easier if the transition to English was deferred enabling them to concentrate on acquiring skills in other core subjects like mathematics and science. The passage of time has reduced the objections especially from the professionals, but expanded the charter to incorporate other objectives that were not originally intended like retention of languages and cultural traditions. The first legislation on bilingual education at the federal level was the Title VIII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968. This legislation provided grants for new programs to facilitate the development of bilingual education programs to meet the needs of non-English speaking students. (Learning English)

A Supreme Court decision in 1974 did the needful in making it a national mandate. In this decision the Court ruled that the school districts were obligated to take the necessary positive steps to help non-English speakers to overcome the education barriers faced by them. In the same year by passing the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, extended this ruling extended to all schools. Many amendments with the passage of time have broadened the scope of Title VIII to allow the enrollment of English- speaking students for bi-lingual education programs. Others expanded the Act to incorporate the maintenance of students' native languages and to stress on teacher training. An important legislation was also passed by way of amendments to limit the scope of Title VIII by funding special English-only programs and put a time limit of three years at the most for participation in Title VIII programs. (Learning English)

The much vaster Title I program aimed at sponsoring compensatory education for disadvantaged students also provides funds, but more for the English as a Second Language programs for students with limited English proficiency. However, programs under Title I and Title VIII may be coordinated at state level to offer bilingual programs. The funds available under Title VIII and Title I programs were $180 million and $10 billion, respectively. The U.S. Department of Education defines bilingual education broadly as any teaching method that uses two languages. The competitor as a teaching model to assist students with limited English proficiency is called English as a Second Language instruction. This is in essence a program of English immersion, which is specially prepared towards acquiring of skills in the English language. Students with limited English proficiency spend a greater part of their time at school in a regular classroom receiving all teaching and instruction in English. This program also facilitates the meeting of the students in small groups with language experts away from the classrooms.

The purpose of the English as a Second Language program is to make the students fluent in English as soon as possible, as the acquiring of language skills is the easiest at young ages. The belief is that any deficiency in curricular learning can be compensated for, but insufficient knowledge of English will make it difficult for students during their years at school and later on in life. A prominent role in the support for such English immersion programs is played by social concerns. The feeling is that encouraging bilingual education besides affecting the academic aspects could also cause the breaking up of the American society along ethnic lines. (Learning English)

The major contrast between a bilingual education program and English as a Second Language program lies in the method of instruction. While the final goal in both cases is the same, which is that the students acquire English skills the difference is in the manner the children are taught. In the English as a Second Language program the important language of instruction is English. First language support may or may not be there and the medium of all instruction is English. The students learn English as a Second language having varying levels of English language fluency. In the pullout model of the English as a Second Language program students are taken out of their regular classes with English as a Second Language teacher for some part of the time they spend at school.

At times they may be provided with support or even actually taught certain other subjects by the English as a Second Language teacher. In the second model of the English as a Second Language program which is a push in model the teacher pushes into the regular classroom and provides support to the students in the classroom or may just give support to the students in the regular classroom setting. The bilingual education has the same objective, which is acquiring both conversational and academic skills in English and the difference lies in that the first language is utilized to teach English. (English Language Learners: The Difference between English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education Programs)

Bilingual education provides initial teaching support to students with limited English proficiency in their native tongue. As their skills in their native language improve the time spent to teach them English is simultaneously increased till the stage is reached where the primary medium of instruction is English. The average time it takes to this stage as seen in Massachusetts is about four years. Social psychologists claim that the requirement for instructing students with low proficiency in English in their native language is that the understanding of the form and grammar of the native language will aid the student in transferring this knowledge into the study of another language and for the students with low proficiency in English, this language is English.

In this context there is nothing bilingual about the English as a Second Language program as virtually no other language with the exception of English is used. The teachers may at some time as a last resort use the student's native tongue to make clear some concept or word, yet this use is minimal. This method of instruction may have its roots in the anti-German sentiment that prevailed during the First World War and the call by politicians and educators for full Americanism. Before the end of the war a majority of the states had imposed some form of restriction on foreign language instruction. The concept behind this mode of instruction is that for a student learning English, the student must study only English and not any other language. A key difference between Bilingual Education and English as a second language is the focus of on whom it is concentrated on and what is achieved. Bilingual English has some emphasis in attempting to make students functionally bilingual, while English as a Second Language focuses on providing English language skills to students with low English proficiency. This has caused both the program and the supporters of the program to be considered anti-immigrant.

The American identity that runs parallel to both of these programs is yet another difference between the two. In the context of what is taught to students with limited English proficiency lays the question of what language or languages should America be learning? Would English as a Second Language make the students in the program give up their native language and should that happen? It may be argued that the using languages other than English for imparting English skills may be an assault on America's common identity. There is a feeling that a teacher in the English as a Second Language program should be able to use any language English or the student's native tongue to provide English language skills.

The effort of the student should also be there to become self sufficient and less reliant on the program as the student becomes familiar with English. Bilingual education at the same time may provide less emphasis on the responsibility of the student to learn English and may create a situation whereby the student may become reliant on the program. This reduced recognition of the responsibility to learn English may make it difficult for the student to graduate from the program or he may not at all. (A Critique of Transitional Bilingual Education and English Immersion)

The bilingual education program at the same time provides a better background…

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