The term bilingual education is used to refer to a variety of different language programs in schools with different goals and methods. These programs range from those that transition minority language students to the majority language as quickly as possible, to programs that build or maintain high level proficiency in a second language through teaching content area in that language. One of the ways of distinguishing different types of bilingual education programs by their goals and methods is to classify them as strong or weak forms of bilingual education (for more on forms of bilingual education, see Baker 1996). Weak forms of bilingual education are programs where the goal is monolingualism or limited bilingualism, whereas strong forms of bilingual education are programs where the goal is bilingualism and biliteracy. Weak forms of bilingual education include submersion or structured immersion programs in the majority language, programs that transition students into the majority language, mainstream education programs with foreign language teaching, and segregationist language programs. Strong forms of bilingual education – those programs emphasizing fluency in two languages – include immersion in a minority language, maintenance/heritage language programs, two way/dual language programs, and bilingual education in two majority languages in populations with two majority languages. Some bilingual education programs include or are a part of multicultural education. Multicultural education acknowledges the ethnic and cultural differences of a diverse student population and seeks to provide equal access to education for all students. While some have equated multiculturalism to cultural pluralism, the former differs in that it not only recognizes differences among groups, but also aims to provide equal access to institutions for all groups (for more on multiculturalism, see Goldberg 1994; Hollinger 1995; Mahajan 2002).
In the US, weak forms of bilingual education, such as programs emphasizing a transition to English rather than augmenting the language skills in the mother tongue with English language skills, have generally been utilized in educational systems, although forms of bilingual education have varied over time and by state (for more on bilingual education in the US, see Fishman & Garc´ıa 2002). From the eighteenth century to World War I, there was an atmosphere of general tolerance with regard to the use of languages other than English in public and even as the medium for instruction in schools (Baker 1996). During the two world wars, public suspicion of foreign languages extended to their use in the classroom. Classes were generally taught in English and the use of other languages in schools was forbidden in some places. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, bilingual education became part of a wider multicultural education movement that emerged from civil rights and desegregation efforts with the goal of making the educational system more equitable for ethnic minorities. For linguistic minorities, the provision of equal access to education may include some form of bilingual education. The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 provided federal funding to schools in support of coursework taught in the stu dents’ native language and was the first federal legislation in the US focused on enhancing educational opportunities for Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Native American students (Ricento & Burnaby 1998). In 1974, in the case of Lau v. Nichols, the US Supreme Court ruled that, in accordance with the Civil Rights Act, language minority students have the right to receive education in their mother tongue. In order to com ply with the 1974 Supreme Court ruling, the Office of Civil Rights developed a set of procedures, programs, and regulations on the provision of bilingual education, often referred to as the Lau Remedies (Ricento & Burnaby 1998).
The demand for programs to address the educational needs of language minority students has created conflicts in the school systems in three general areas: the cost of the programs, the shortage of bilingual teachers (particularly in certain subject areas), and the capacity of the language programs to integrate students into the general student bodies in schools (Cervantes Rodr´ıguez & Lutz 2003; see also Johnson et al. 1997). In the 1980s and 1990s, the ‘‘English Only’’ movement sought to limit the use of languages other than English in US public institutions, including as a medium of instruction in schools. The early 1980s marked a shift away from the Lau Remedies due to decreases in funding of strong bilingual education programs, legislative efforts that limited enforcement of the Lau Remedies, and policies that allowed states and districts to determine whether their policies and programs complied with the Civil Rights Act (Ricento & Burnaby 1998). Some states, such as California, have since passed ballot initiatives to eliminate bilingual education from the states’ public school systems. Passed in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act continues the trend away from strong forms of bilingual education; it sets a 3 year limit on instruction in children’s mother tongues and directs federal funds toward programs that promote a transition to English rather than bilingualism.
Much of the past research on bilingual education in the US has focused on the acquisition of English and educational outcomes of students with limited English abilities (for more recent sociological research on bilingual education, see Roscigno et al. 2001). More recent sociological research has focused on the educational outcomes associated with proficiency in an immigrant mother tongue in addition to English (e.g., Fernandez & Nielson 1986). Authors in the segmented assimilation perspective, in particular, have argued that maintenance of an ethnic mother tongue is associated with enhanced educational outcomes (Portes & Schauffler 1994; Zhou & Bankston 1998; Portes & Rumbaut 2001).
In Latin America, indigenous languages have become part of bilingual/bicultural education in some countries and school curricula throughout the region are increasingly including a variety of programs to promote English language skills. Bilingual education has been ongoing in Mexico since about the 1930s, but was implemented more widely in the 1970s, often as a means to transition indigenous students to Spanish (Mar Molinero 2000). By the 1980s the use of indigenous mother tongues in school curricula was more accepted, but Mexico’s participation in NAFTA with the US and Canada led to increased pressures to focus on English language acquisition by the 1990s. Support for bilingual education in Peru also increased in the 1970s after Quechua gained status as an official language. The Puno bilingual education project in Peru, which used the students’ mother tongue (either Aymara or Quechua) as the main medium of instruction and Spanish as a second language, has been influential throughout Latin America (Mar Molinero 2000; for more on the Puno project, see Hornberger 1988). Despite the program’s success in enhancing students’ knowledge of academic content, the experimental bilingual education program in Puno was discontinued in 1990, although efforts at similar programs have emerged since that time (Hornberger and Lo´pez 1998). Bolivia’s educational reform efforts in the 1990s entailed a program to include indigenous languages as both a subject and a means of instruction (Mar Molinero 2000). Unlike bilingual education programs in much of Latin America (and much of the rest of the world), the Bolivian program is aimed at promoting proficiency in indigenous languages (in addition to Spanish) for both majority and minority language speakers (for more on bilingual education programs in Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru, see Mar Molinero 2000).
Bilingual education in Canada includes heritage language programs intended to promote and maintain fluency in immigrant languages and French immersion programs. Heritage language bilingual education is available in some provinces, meaning that children receive academic instruction in an immigrant mother tongue or ancestral language for about half the school day (Baker 1996). In other provinces, heritage language classes are offered to teach children a heritage language outside of the school day. In the 1960s, Canada began experimental programs in French language immersion. These programs were innovative in that they used the target language as the medium rather than the subject of academic instruction (Genesee 1998). The Canadian immersion programs provide an educational experience in which majority English language speakers are immersed in French at school, thereby allowing them to have proficiency in both of Canada’s official languages (Genesee 1998).
The success and popularity of the French immersion programs in Canada has led to the creation of similar programs in Australia, Spain, the UK, Finland, and Switzerland (Baker 1996). Other bilingual education programs throughout the world offer bilingual education in two majority languages. These programs utilize two (or more) majority languages as the medium of instruction of content area. Often, they feature a national and international language, with the goal that students become fluent in both. Such programs can be found in Luxembourg, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, and Nigeria (Baker 1996). In Luxembourg, for example, the language that is used as a medium of instruction shifts from Luxembourgish, to German, and then French as the students progress through the school system; students also learn additional foreign languages such as English and Latin as a subject in the secondary level, with the option of additional languages if they select the language stream in the curriculum (Hoffmann 1998). Private international schools (such as those found in Asia and the Middle East) often utilize bilingual education programs in two majority languages or teach content predominantly in English or another European language with the goal of bilingualism and preparation for continuing study in European or US university systems (Baker 1996).
In the European Union, decisions related to linguistic rights, bilingual planning, and educational programs are generally left to national governments. A variety of bilingual education programs and philosophies exist and programs are targeted at building bilingual proficiency among regional and immigrant language minority children, as well as programs targeted at bi or multilingualism among majority language speakers. Member states are encouraged to promote fluency in at least two ‘‘foreign’’ languages, one of which should be an official language of a European Union member state (Extra & Yag˘mur 2004). Exchange programs for teachers and students such as LINGUA, ERASMUS, and SOCRATES are also aimed at building bilingual skills in the various languages that exist throughout the member countries. The European Union indirectly promotes bilingual education for language minorities through directives and recommendations on language minority rights such as the 1977 directive recommending that children of immigrants be taught in their own mother tongue, and more recent charters on rights of regional language minorities and through funding for research, publications, and conferences on issues related to regional language minorities. However, support for bilingualism tends to focus more on the promotion and preservation of the European Union’s official languages and European minority languages than on the preservation of mother tongue skills amongimmi grant minorities (Extra & Yag˘mur 2004).
In this sense, there is a distinction between the bilingual programs for regional language minorities and immigrant minorities. Regional languages lost institutional support and speakers through processes of consolidation of European nation states in the nineteenth century that included the selection of official languages for communication, business, and educational purposes within nation states. In recent years, many bilingual education programs have had a goal of rebuilding skills in European regional languages and promoting cultural diversity within nation states. For example, in Spain the democratic transition following the end of the Franco regime created a opening for greater use of regional minority languages (prohibited during much of the Franco era), including as a medium of instruction in schools. In areas where there is strong support for and use of a regional language some academic subjects are taught in local languages such as Galician or Basque, while other academic subjects are taught in Castilian (Cenoz 1998; Mar Molinero 2000). In Catalun˜ a, Catalan is now the principal language of the school system.
In addition to regional language minorities created by nation building processes in the nineteenth century, changes in national borders as a result of the world wars and the fall of the Soviet Union have also resulted in language minorities, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe (in both EU and non EU European countries). In some cases language minority students take a substantial part of their course work in their mother tongue. For example, Hungarian ethnic students in Slovakia and Romania receive content area instruction in both the majority language and Hungarian (Fitzgerald Gersten 2001). Guestworker programs and immigration have also resulted in non-European language minorities (with Turkish and Arabic being the largest such language groups) as well as European language minorities (such as Finns in Sweden). There are also important refugee populations residing in European countries from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. There is not a standard bilingual education curriculum or program for children of immigrants, refugees, and guestworkers in the European Union. Ger many, for example, with the largest immigrant population in Europe, has a variety of different types of bilingual education programs both within and across cities with large immigrant populations. Language programs for children of immigrants, guestworkers, and refugees range from weak bilingual education programs that focus on the primary acquisition of majority language skills, to strong bilingual language programs that intend to promote fluency in both the language of the country of origin as well as the majority language, to segregationist programs that utilize the curricula and language of the country of origin (Skutnabb Kangas 1984; Romaine 1995; Extra & Yag˘mur 2004). Internationally, sociological research on bilingual and multicultural education addresses the often overlapping issues of language minority rights (such as speakers of indigenous languages in Latin America, guestworkers and immigrants in Europe, and Spanish speakers in the US), issues related to colonial and post-colonial language policies and linguistic practices (particularly with respect to curricula in India, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East), language maintenance and shift, and the impact of bilingual and multilingual skills on academic outcomes. Methodologically, the greatest obstacle to sociological research on the impact of language on educational outcomes is a lack of national and international survey data that include measures of proficiency in majority and minority languages as well as specific demographic and educational data.
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