Bilingual education

  (Redirected from Bilingual school)

Bilingual education involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. Bilingual education refers to the utilization of two languages as means of instruction for students and considered part of or the entire school curriculum,[1] as distinct from simply teaching a second language as a subject.

Children at school

Importance of bilingual educationEdit

Children's Bilingual Theater Dr Seuss Day
The bilingual French-speaking school Trung Vuong

Bilingual education is viewed by educators as the "pathway to bilingualism", which allows learners to develop proficiency and literacy in both their mother-tongue and second-language. The competency in two languages is believed to broaden students' opportunities to communicate with people from other communities. [2] Another advantage of bilingual education is “promoting equal education” [3] and becoming “the cure and not the cause of underachievement”,[4] as it gives students an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills in their first language. When students' first language is valued and used as a resource for learning, it has a positive effect on learners’ self-esteem [2] and “identity affirmation”. [5]

Not only does bilingual education introduce new linguistics and maintain home languages, but it also promotes cultural and linguistic diversity. This allows for positive intercultural communication, which can lead to a better understanding of cultural and linguistic differences. As Baker and Wright (2017) point out, children in dual language bilingual schools “are likely to be more tolerant, respectful, sensitive and equalized in status. Genuine cross-cultural friendships may develop, and issues of stereotyping and discrimination may be diminished”.[6] The official language policy of International Baccalaureate Organization (2014) also emphasizes the importance of “cultivation of intercultural awareness, international-mindedness, and global citizenship” [7] in international schools where students speak more than two languages. Other benefits of bilingual education are considered to be improved cognitive performance,[8] "particularly in the performance of complex tasks that are controlled by executive functioning processes and working memory" [9] and such economic advantages as increased job and education opportunities around the world.[10]

Bilingual education program modelsEdit

The following section surveys several different types of bilingual education program models.

Transitional bilingual educationEdit

Transitional bilingual education involves education in a child's native language to ensure that students do not fall behind in content areas such as mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English. When the child's English proficiency is deemed satisfactory, they can then transition to an English Only (EO) environment. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. While the linguistic goal of such programs is to help students transition to mainstream, English-only classrooms, the use of the student's primary language as a vehicle to develop literacy skills and acquire academic knowledge also prevents the degeneration of a child's native language. This program model is often used in the United States school system.[11]

Immersion bilingual educationEdit

Immersion is a type of bilingual education in which subjects are taught in a student's second language. The students are immersed into a classroom in which the subject is taught entirely in their second language (non-native language). There are different facets of immersion in schools. There is total immersion in which the whole class is taught in the second language. Partial immersion is when about half of the class time is spent learning that second language. The third type of immersion within schools is called two-way immersion, also known as dual immersion. Dual immersion occurs when half of the students in class natively speak the second language while the other half do not. Dual immersion encourages each group of students to work together in learning each other’s language.

Two-way or dual language immersionEdit

Dual language or two-way immersion education refers to programs that provide grade-level content and literacy instruction to all students through two languages, English and a partner language. These programs are designed to help native and non-native English speakers become bilingual and biliterate. There are four main types of dual language programs, these programs refer to how a student would best learn with dual language immersion based on their previous language skills.

The first type are developmental, or maintenance bilingual programs. These programs enroll students who are native speakers of the partner language to learn English. The second type are bilingual immersion programs. These programs enroll both native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language. The third type are foreign language immersion programs. These programs primarily enroll students who speak English as their native language. Finally, the fourth type are heritage language programs. These programs enroll students who are primarily dominant in English, but a close relative (e.g. parent or grandparent) speaks the partner language.

Another form of bilingual education is a type of dual language program that has students study in two different ways: 1) A variety of academic subjects are taught in the students' second language, with specially trained bilingual teachers who can understand students when they ask questions in their native language, but always answer in the second language; and 2) Native language literacy classes improve students' writing and higher-order language skills in their first language. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. In this type of program, the native language classes do not teach academic subjects. The second-language classes are content-based, rather than grammar-based, so students learn all of their academic subjects in the second language. Dual language is a type of bilingual education where students learn about reading and writing in two languages. In the United States, the majority of programs are English and Spanish but new partner languages have emerged lately such as Japanese, Korean, French, Mandarin, and Arabic. The concept of dual language promotes bilingualism, improved awareness of cultural diversity, and higher levels of academic achievement by means of lessons in two languages.

The 90/10 and 50/50 modelsEdit

There are two basic models for dual language immersion. The first model is the 90/10 model. The two-way bilingual immersion program has 90% of the instructions in grades K-1 in the minority language, which is less supported by the broader society, and 10% in the majority language. This proportion gradually changes in the majority language until the curriculum is equally divided in both languages by 5th grade. The two-way bilingual immersion program is based on the principle of clear curriculum separation of the two languages of instruction. Teachers do not repeat or translate the subject matter in the second language but strengthen concepts taught in one language across the two languages in a spiral curriculum in order to provide cognitive challenge (Thomas & Collier, 1997). The languages of instructions are alternated by theme or content area. This type of immersion is required to develop the dual language proficiency, as social language can be mastered in couple of years, but a higher level of competency is required to read social studies texts or solve mathematics word problems, roughly around 5 to 7 years (Collier, 1987). The goal of gradually increasing the majority of the language is for instruction to become 50% of English and 50% of the partner language. The second model is the 50/50 model. In the 50/50 model English and the partner language are used equally throughout the program.

Dual immersion programs in the USEdit

Dual immersion classrooms encourage students' native language development, making an important contribution to heritage language maintenance, and allow language minority students to remain in classrooms with their native English-speaking peers, resulting in linguistic and socio-cultural advantages. As of May 2005, there were 317 dual immersion programs operating in elementary schools in the United States in 10 different languages.

Dual language programs are less common in US schools, although research indicates they are extremely effective in helping students learn English well and aiding the long-term performance of English learners in school. Native English speakers benefit by learning a second language. English language learners (ELLs) are not segregated from their peers. These students are taught in their mother tongue yet still in the typical "American" classroom, for both cognitive and social benefits.

English as a second languageEdit

This program entails learning English while with people that speak the same native language. ESL is a supplementary, comprehensive English language program for students trying to learn the language to better function in American society. People are learning English as a second language because English has been assigned communicative status in that country. Singapore, India, Malawi, and 50 other territories use English as part of the country's leading institutions, where it plays a second-language role in a multilingual society. ESL is different from EFL (English as a foreign language). ESL is offered at many schools to accommodate the culturally diverse students, most often found in urban areas, and helps these students keep up with subjects such as math and science. To teach ESL abroad, a bachelor's degree and ESL teaching qualification is typically required at minimum.

Late-exit or developmental bilingual educationEdit

In this program model, education is in the child's native language for an extended duration, accompanied by education in English. The goal is to develop literacy in the child's native language first, and transfer these skills to the second language. This education is ideal for many English learning students, but in many instances the resources for such education are not available.

Effects of mother-tongue instructionEdit

Continuing to foster the abilities of children's mother tongue along with other languages has proven essential for their personal and educational development because they retain their cultural identity and gain a deeper understanding of language. Two 2016 studies of mother-tongue instruction in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively show that it had positive outcomes for the students in both countries. The following list contains multiple benefits that researchers have found from children being educated bilingually.


Theory of mind is connected to empathy because it helps us to understand the beliefs, desires, and thoughts of others. Researchers studying theory of mind in bilingual and monolingual preschoolers found that bilingual preschoolers performed significantly higher on theory of mind false belief tasks than their monolingual peers.[12]


Researchers found that students in a dual-language immersion program in Portland Oregon performed better in English reading and writing skills than their peers.[13]


Many studies have shown that bilingual children tend to have better executive function abilities. These are often measured using tasks that require inhibition and task switching. Bilingual children are typically able to hold their attention for longer without becoming distracted and are better able to switch from one task to another.[14][15]

School performance and engagementEdit

Researchers Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier conducted school program evaluation research across 15 states. They found that students in dual-language classroom environments have better outcomes than their peers in English-only classrooms in regards to attendance, behavior, and parent involvement.[14][16]

American congressional actsEdit

The United States Congress introduced the Bilingual Act in 1968; it defines the term program for bilingual education. This program of instruction is intended for children who are not fully proficient in the English language. Instructions are given so pupils can achieve the necessary competence in English as well as in their original languages, taking into consideration the children's cultural heritage. This can be integrated into the subjects or courses of study, with the intent to enable students to grow effectively throughout the educational system.[17]

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1968) was another significant measure for bilingual education. Title VII (Bilingual Education Act) created federal guidelines for bilingual education and recognized that "large numbers of children of limited English-speaking ability in the United States" had "[s]pecial educational needs". The Act specified a federal governmental obligation to subsidize creative bilingual programs. Title VII has been amended numerous times since it was introduced; it became part of the America Schools Act in 1994.[18]

Myths surrounding bilingual educationEdit

Many myths and much prejudice have grown around bilingual education. Researchers from the UK and Poland have listed the most entrenched misconceptions:[19]

Many myths and much prejudice have grown around bilingual education due to the monolingual point of view. Researchers from the UK and Poland have listed the some of the most entrenched misconceptions:

Myth: Bi- or multilinguals are exceptions to the "default" monolingual "norm"Edit

Bilingual or multilingual people actually outnumber monolinguals globally, with approximately 43% of the world's population identifying as monolingual, and 57% of the world's population identifying as bilingual or multilingual.[20]

Myth: In order to deserve the label "bi-/multilingual", one needs to have an equal, "perfect", "native-like" command of both/all of their languagesEdit

There is often an assumption only "balanced bilinguals" with "native-like" proficiency or "perfect proficiency in both or all of their languages" are considered a bilingual or multilingual.[21] Instead, it is perhaps more accurate to define a bilingual or multilingual as a person who uses two or more languages (or dialects) in their everyday life.[21] In reality, balanced bilinguals are rare, and balanced bilingualism is an idealized concept that does not accurately reflect how most bilinguals or multilinguals use their four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) as they move through their lives.[22] Instead, most bilinguals and multilinguals have varying proficiencies in the four language skills depending on the language they are speaking.[22]

Myth: Childhood bilingualism may be detrimental to both linguistic and cognitive development and consequently lead to poorer results at school.Edit

Bilingual Storytime at a library

The number of children learning a language other than English or who speak a language other than English at home has been steadily increasing since the early 2000s in the United States, due to shifts in population demographics. Assessments given to these children during their studies appear to show these students score lower than their English speaking monolingual peers.[23] However, these assessments are usually English-only and do not consider skills in languages other than English or any cultural skills a student may have from their first language.[23] In fact, these tests only measure English proficiency.[23] Additionally, many immigrant and new American families in the US struggle with poverty, and the effects of these different pressures on students and their families are frequently not considered.[23] These assessments create the illusion bilingual students are performing poorly compared to their monolingual peers. Similar patterns can be seen in other countries using monolingual assessments to gauge bilingual or multilingual students' learning. However, current studies suggest children are capable to acquiring multiple languages in their first years of life, and benefit from the extra challenge.[23] Exposure to multiple languages as a young age changes the way a child's brain organizes language, developing two connected language systems they can access in different situations.[23] Developing proficiency in two or more languages also benefits other aspects of executive function such as memory and attention.[23]

Myth: Adult Learners are unable to successfully build proficiency in a language the way a young child can.Edit

Adult learners may be hesitant to pick up a language due to the misconception that after an adult has passed the "Critical Period" in their cognitive development they cannot acquire a language as successfully as a young child. However, current studies call into question the validity of the critical theory, and point out it has ignored adult learners and older adult learners out of consideration.[24] Learning a second or third language can have great benefits for adults, including expanding cultural literacy and slowing cognitive decline due to diseases such as dementia later in life.[25] Adult learners may face challenges, such as finding the time to do language studies while balancing other responsibilities. Some studies do suggest adults may need more time with the content to acquire the language. However, these studies fail to account for differences between adult learners and young children. Children frequently engage with a second language in a classroom environment with scaffolding, structure, and lesson plans built to help boost their language skills.[26] In contrast, adult learners usually do not have access to the same structures or the ability to spend the same amount of time in a classroom.[26] Adult learners, especially older adult learners, may also report they have trouble developing listening skills in another language.[26] However, for all these challenges adult learners also have several advantages over young children when it comes to language acquisition. Adult learners know more study skills than a young learner, and can pay closer attention to content than a young learner.[27] Studies have shown the brain maintains plasticity throughout one's lifespan, so a healthy adult can acquire a language at any age .[27]

By country or regionEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ASCD. "Bilingual Education: Effective Programming for Language-Minority Students". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne E. (2017). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (6th. ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. p. 343.
  3. ^ Kong, Peggy A.; Yu, Xiaoran (July 3, 2019). "Bilingual education for a harmonious multiculturalism: the importance of policy discourse for students of ethnic minority groups in China". Multicultural Education Review. 11 (3): 190. doi:10.1080/2005615X.2019.1664017. ISSN 2005-615X.
  4. ^ Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne E. (2017). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (6th. ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. p. 279.
  5. ^ Cummins, Jim; Early, Margaret (2011). Identity texts: The collaborative creation of power in multilingual schools. Trentham Books. p. 38.
  6. ^ Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne E. (2017). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (6th. ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. p. 311.
  7. ^ "IB Language Policy" (PDF). International Baccalaureate. Retrieved September 23, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ Bialystok, Ellen; Craik, Fergus I.M.; Green, David W.; Gollan, Tamar H. (2009). "Bilingual Minds". Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 10 (3): 89–129. ISSN 1529-1006.
  9. ^ Baker, Doris Luft; Basaraba, Deni Lee; Polanco, Paul (2016). "Connecting the Present to the Past: Furthering the Research on Bilingual Education and Bilingualism". Review of Research in Education. 40: 821–883. ISSN 0091-732X.
  10. ^ Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne E. (2017). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (6th.ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. p. 585.
  11. ^ Durán, Lillian K.; Roseth, Cary J.; Hoffman, Patricia (April 1, 2010). "An experimental study comparing English-only and Transitional Bilingual Education on Spanish-speaking preschoolers' early literacy development". Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 25 (2): 207–217. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2009.10.002. ISSN 0885-2006.
  12. ^ Goetz, Peggy J. (April 2003). "The effects of bilingualism on theory of mind development". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 6 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1017/S1366728903001007.
  13. ^ Burkhauser, Susan; Steele, Jennifer L.; Li, Jennifer; Slater, Robert O.; Bacon, Michael; Miller, Trey (September 2016). "Partner-Language Learning Trajectories in Dual-Language Immersion: Evidence From an Urban District". Foreign Language Annals. 49 (3): 415–433. doi:10.1111/flan.12218.
  14. ^ a b "6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education". Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  15. ^ Bialystok, Ellen (June 1, 2015). "Bilingualism and the Development of Executive Function: The Role of Attention". Child Development Perspectives. 9 (2): 117–121. doi:10.1111/cdep.12116. ISSN 1750-8592. PMC 4442091. PMID 26019718.
  16. ^ Collier, Virginia; Thomas, Wayne. "The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All" (PDF). NABE Journal of Research and Practice. 2.
  17. ^ Inc., US Legal. "Bilingual Education Act (1968) – Education". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  18. ^ "Transitional Bilingual Education Programs: Pros & Cons |". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  19. ^ Paradowski MB, Bator A (2016). "Perceived effectiveness of language acquisition in the process of multilingual upbringing by parents of different nationalities". International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 21 (6): 1–19. doi:10.1080/13670050.2016.1203858.
  20. ^ Mathews, Jay (April 25, 2019). "Half of the world is bilingual. What's our problem?". The Washington Post.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ a b Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne (2017). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. UK: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781783097210.
  22. ^ a b Baker, Colin; Wright, Wayne (2017). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. UK: Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781783097210.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Espinosa, Linda (2015). "Challenges and Benefits of Early Bilingualism in the United States' Context". Global Education Review. 2: 1–14 – via ERIC.
  24. ^ Roessingh, Hetty; Kover, Pat (June 26, 2002). "Working With Younger-Arriving ESL Learners in High School English: Never Too Late to Reclaim Potential". TESL Canada Journal. 19 (2): 01. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i2.926. ISSN 1925-8917.
  25. ^ Roessingh, Hetty; Kover, Pat (June 26, 2002). "Working With Younger-Arriving ESL Learners in High School English: Never Too Late to Reclaim Potential". TESL Canada Journal. 19 (2): 01. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i2.926. ISSN 1925-8917.
  26. ^ a b c Roessingh, Hetty; Kover, Pat (June 26, 2002). "Working With Younger-Arriving ESL Learners in High School English: Never Too Late to Reclaim Potential". TESL Canada Journal. 19 (2): 01. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i2.926. ISSN 1925-8917.
  27. ^ a b Roessingh, Hetty; Kover, Pat (June 26, 2002). "Working With Younger-Arriving ESL Learners in High School English: Never Too Late to Reclaim Potential". TESL Canada Journal. 19 (2): 01. doi:10.18806/tesl.v19i2.926. ISSN 1925-8917.

Further readingEdit

  • Anderson, Barbara A., and Brian D. Silver, "Equality, Efficiency, and Politics in Soviet Bilingual Education Policy, 1934–1980." American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, No. 4 (December 1984), pp. 1019–1039
  • Baldauf, R.B. (2005). Coordinating government and community support for community language teaching in Australia: Overview with special attention to New South Wales. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8 (2&3): 132–144
  • Carter, Steven (November 2004). "Oui! They're only 3." Oregon
  • Crawford, J. (2004). Educating English Learners: Language Diversity in the Classroom (5th edition). Los Angeles: Bilingual Educational Services (BES).
  • Cummins, J. & Genzuk, M. (1991). Analysis of Final Report: Longitudinal Study of Structured English Immersion Strategy, Early Exit and Late-Exit Transitional Bilingual Education Programs for Language-Minority Children. USC Center for Multilingual, Multicultural Research.
  • Dean, Bartholomew (ed.) (2004), "Indigenous Education and the Prospects for Cultural Survival", Cultural Survival Quarterly, (27) 4.
  • del Mazo, Pilar (2006). "The Multicultural Schoolbus: Is Bilingual Education Driving Our Children, and Our Nation, Towards Failure?" [2006 Education Law Consortium]. The article is available at:
  • Dutcher, N., in collaboration with Tucker, G. R. (1994). The use of first and second languages in education: A review of educational experience. Washington, DC: World Bank, East Asia and the Pacific Region, Country Department III.
  • Gao, Helen. (November 2004). "Fight over bilingual education continues." The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  • Gonzalez, A. (1998). Teaching in two or more languages in the Philippine context. In J. Cenoz & F. Genesee (Eds.), Beyond bilingualism: Multilingualism and multilingual education (pp. 192–205). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
  • Grimes, B. F. (1992). Ethnologue: Languages of the world Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
  • Hakuta, K. (1986).Mirror of language: The debate on bilingualism. New York: Basic Books.
  • Harris, S. G. & Devlin, B. C. (1996). "Bilingual programs involving Aboriginal languages in Australia". In Jim Cummins and David Corso (eds), Encyclopedia of language and education, vol 5, pp. 1–14. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Hult, F.M. (2012). Ecology and multilingual education. In C. Chapelle (Gen. Ed.), Encyclopedia of applied linguistics (Vol. 3, pp. 1835-1840). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Kalist, David E. (2005). "Registered Nurses and the Value of Bilingualism." Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 59(1): 101–118.<>
  • Kloss, Heinz (1977, reprinted 1998). The American Bilingual Tradition. (Language in Education; 88) McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems. ISBN 1-887744-02-9
  • Krashen, S. D. (1999). Bilingual Education: Arguments for and (Bogus) Arguments Against [sic] University of Southern California professor's article is available online at "" (PDF). (201 KB)
  • Parrish, T.; Perez, M; Merickel, A.; and Linquanti, R.(2006). "Effects of the Implementation of Proposition 227 on the Education of English Learners, K-12, Findings from a Five-Year Evaluation: Final Report." Washington, DC: AIR and San Francisco: WestEd. The complete report is available free at An abbreviated, more accessible summary of the findings is available at
  • Seidner, Stanley S.(1981–1989) Issues of Language Assessment. 3 vols. Springfield, Il.: State Board of Education.
  • Summer Institute of Linguistics. (1995). A survey of vernacular education programming at the provincial level within Papua New Guinea. Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea: Author.
  • Swain, M. (1996). Discovering successful second language teaching strategies and practices: From program evaluation to classroom experimentation." Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 17," 89-104.
  • Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (1997). Two languages are better than one. Educational Leadership, 55(4), 23–26.

External linksEdit