Families & Communities

Bilingual Education

Pláticas en Acción
Bilingual Education

Bilingual education teaches English to children and gives them a chance to use it, and at the same time they are taught core subjects like math and science.

What is the issue?
Some special interest groups are trying to stop public schools from offering bilingual education. These groups say that all classes should be taught only in English, and children who can’t pass should be held back until they learn enough English to advance to the next grade.

Groups that don’t want teachers to use any language other than English misunderstand how students learn and how important it is for children to grasp basic instruction in all their subjects at the same time they are being taught the English language. Students who are taught in a language they don’t understand are likely to fail their grade. And studies show students who are held back are more likely to drop out of school before they graduate.

Why is it important?
All citizens need to understand the long-term costs associated with students who drop out of school because they cannot pass courses that are taught in a language foreign to them. The facts show that bilingual education is a small investment that pays big dividends for the country in the form of a well-educated work force. Instead of bilingual education eroding our national unity, it strengthens our democracy and global competitiveness.

Rather than keeping families and schools apart, bilingual education supports family unity by connecting parents who don’t speak English to schools and communities through their children.

Parents of children who are educated through bilingual programs should tell other parents that their children learn better and faster in bilingual programs. Students in these programs are less likely to drop out of school before they graduate, and they stand a much better chance for a future filled with opportunity.

What needs to be done?
Those who understand the true value of bilingual education could speak to PTA associations, policy makers, community groups and other local organizations to present the facts regarding the benefits to the community of these programs. Those who don’t fully understand could learn the facts and spread the word among their friends and associates that bilingual education works best and that students are more likely to learn core subjects taught in their own language.

Do you know what groups are working to stop bilingual education programs? You can find out by asking the principal of your child’s school. Arrange to speak to these groups and bring out the true facts about the benefits of these programs, both long-range and short-range, to the future of your community. Educate your friends and neighbors about the costs associated with children’s failure to learn core subjects and how holding back these students make them more likely to drop out of school before they graduate.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a vanguard leadership development and research team working with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. IDRA, 5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350, San Antonio, Texas 78228-1190; 210-444-1710; contact@idra.org; www.idra.org. © 2003 by IDRA. • RE-CONNECT Parent Information Resource Center at IDRA •