Miwok.jpgBilingual Education

by Jaime Staska

"We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it." Benjamin Lee Whorf

"The best setting for educating linguistic minority pupils—and one of the best for educating any pupils—is a school in which two languages are used without apology and where becoming proficient in both is considered a significant intellectual and cultural achievement.” -Charles Glenn

Bilingual education is a fairly established concept with roots that date back to the 1700s, but it continues to stir controversy in the 21st century.

The basic premise of bilingual education in America is to teach students in their first language as well as in English while they work toward fluency, so that they do not fall behind in their studies.

Types of Bilingual Education:

There are varying Bilingual Education models:

  • Transitional Bilingual Education
    • Education in the child's native language for up to three years, followed by a transition to English-only classrooms. The amount of English spoken increases each year to gently transition students.

  • Two-Way or Dual Language Immersion Bilingual Education
    • These programs are made up of native and second-language English speakers. English Language learners are integrated with their peers, who receive the benefit of learning a second language. Both English and the minority language are spoken in class.

  • Dual Language programs have students study in two different ways:
    • Dual Language programs have students study in two different ways.
      • by learning some subjects in English with bilingual teachers who understand questions asked in the students' native language but answer the questions in English.
      • Offering native language literacy classed to improve writing and language skills in their first language. These classes transfer language skills to other subject-based classes, such as mathematics and science.

  • Late-Exit or Developmental Bilingual Education
    • The child develops literacy in their native language first and then transfers those skills to their second language.

History of Bilingual Education.bil_cartoon.jpg

Bilingual Education has been a factor in American Education since the revolution. European Immigrants ran their own rural schools in their native languages beginning in the 1700s. In 1839, Ohio was the first of many states to adopt bilingual education law, and in 1848 The U.S. and Mexico signed the Treaty of Hidalgo, giving Mexicans the right to speak Spanish in the United States. In 1900, 4% of American children received some part of their education in German.

As for Native American students, they were forbidden from speaking their language in schools from 1864 until to the 1940s and 50s.

in 1968 the Congress passed the bilingual education act, which provided federal funding for native language instruction in schools. Protests and Law suits in the 1970s led to more support for bilingual education in Texas and California, and in 1975 the National Association for Bilingual Education was founded.

Since then, the nation has wavered back and forth in its support and criticism for bilingual education. In 2001, the Bilingual Education Act was terminated with the passage of No Child Left Behind. The law emphasized accountability in English only, and ALL students are tested yearly in English.

Bilingual Education Links

The following link will give you a more in-depth history of bilingual education in American schools:world.jpg


The National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) website:


external image moz-screenshot.pngAn article defending the effectiveness of bilingual education:


An article defending bilingual education as a civil right: