Bilingual Education

How Important is Bilingual Education in our School System?

As a child of parents whose native language is not English, I understand first hand the importance of bilingual education. My mom came to America at the age of 17 and did not know any English. She was placed in ESL classes in high school, but was greatly disappointed with the lack of respect most teachers showed the ESL students. She did not feel like the teachers valued them simply because they did not know how to speak English. She was so disillusioned with the teachers and their lack of effort that she chose to drop out of school instead.

I grew up in an area here in Houston that was predominantly first or second-generation Hispanic families. It was extremely common for a lot of my friends to be in bilingual or ESL classes up until high school because they were still trying to learn the language. 25 years after my own my mom dropped out of high school because she did not feel that her teachers were well enough equipped to teach students that were still having difficulty picking up the English language, I had friends going through the exact same situation.

As our country continues to become more and more diverse, it should be a top priority to stress the importance of bilingual education. Bilingual education should not only focus on teaching children English, but it should also teach them the importance of their own native language. Educators should not make students feel ashamed or embarrassed about their native tongue; on the contrary, it should be celebrated as part of their heritage and where they come from. Students need to realize from a young age that being proficient in more than one language is an asset that will carry them far in life. For example, I have acquired certain job positions solely based on the fact that I am bilingual and speak fluent Spanish in addition to fluent English. We live in a multicultural city that is full of opportunities for those that have stayed proficient in their native language in addition to learning English.

Benefits of Bilingual Education:

Cognitive Benefits


Studies have shown that bilingual children have greater cognitive flexibility and show more awareness of how language works, as well as have better social skills (Deussen, 2014).

Cultural Benefits


Families that have immigrated to the United States can preserve important family relationships, traditions, and identity by raising bilingual children. Retaining the family’s native tongue is just as important as learning English, since highly developed English skills will allow their children to fully participate in “mainstream” America (Deussen, 2014.

Economic Benefits

Children that grow up to be bilingual adults will have more job opportunities than monolingual adults. Studies show that fully bilingual Hispanics can earn up to $7,000 more per year than their monolingual peers (Deussen, 2014).

If educators can see the added benefits of bilingualism, then they will be able to see that bilingual education should be a top priority. We want our future generations to thrive and be better contributing members of society; in order for us to better prepare them we need to prioritize bilingual education.

References

Deussen, T. (2014, December 18). Treating Language as a Strength: The Benefits of Bilingualism. Retrieved from http://educationnorthwest.org/northwest-matters/treating- language-strength-benefits-bilingualism