Bilingual programs improve academic growth.

A Model Education:

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Do you want to do something unique and innovative to prepare your child in an exciting educational setting that promotes learning for the ever-changing world of work and the global economy? If so, learn about dual language immersion programs. Then become an advocate in the community. Your child will love you. And so will society.

Major educational researchers have indicated that dual immersion educational programs work best for all our children, for language minority and majority pupils. This model integrates 50 percent native English speakers and 50 percent native speakers of another language for all or most of the day, with the goals of promoting high academic achievement, first and second language development, and cross-cultural understanding for all students. It’s about equitable treatment and improved academic growth for all children.  

Over the last 10 years these programs have gained recognition as a desirable alternative for language learning and academic attainments.

Indeed, the four goals of dual language immersion programs suggest a superior education, not currently available to our children. These goals are: native language development, second language acquisition, academic attainment and multicultural competencies.  

The four goals become a developmental enrichment program where the English language learners develop their native language as they acquire English abilities. At the same time, English dominant children learn a (foreign) second language in a culturally sensitive environment. Each year both groups receive meaningful academic content in two languages with comprehensible input that lower the learners’ affective filter. Parents need to know the pedagogical educational process that is used at each grade level. Their involvement is critical in this process.

Now is the time to send a clear message: Bilingual education is a matter of civil rights.

In order for this model to work, classes need minimal pupil segregation and a balanced language population. It demands highly-structured language learner environments, with language separation and greater reliance on team teaching. Ongoing professional development for teachers is a must, along with the production of high quality instructional materials. Additionally, dual language immersion requires a deep understanding of the philosophical views of community and school regarding bilingualism and multiculturalism.

The theoretical concepts of dual language immersion programs should be clearly presented by educators to parents and the larger community in order to assure complete understanding. Language acquisition theories and language deficiency myths regarding bilingual education are also part of the learning for all.

As Aguilera-Fort, president of California Association for Bilingual Education, recently stated: “Now is the time when we need to reclaim the right of bilingual education, now is time to reclaim the right for social justice, now is the time to send a clear message: Bilingual education is a matter of civil rights.”  

In today’s world, we want our children to receive an education with a social justice focus that challenges mainstream and conventional thinking with high expectations of students.

We can think out of the box. But we have to get real. Revamping an educational system takes courage.

For starters let’s initiate a teacher exchange system between California and other Spanish speaking countries willing to participate in this endeavor. Our teachers travel and study abroad as they teach non-English speakers. Their teachers come here to study, travel and teach our children in Spanish, in a dual language immersion educational program.   

In 2006 a joint initiative was enacted to meet a Chinese teacher shortage and to end the critical shortage of Chinese-language teachers in the US districts wishing to begin new Chinese language immersion programs.

As we promote dual language education across the total spectrum of education we initiate quality education for all children – preparation needed for the future.

It’s not for the weak or fainthearted. It’s only for those who are success-oriented and want an exemplary education for their children.

Our children will go to school knowing that their teachers will value their speaking two or more languages, a mark of their intelligence and superior academic knowledge.

Educational change requires a social movement. Rights are only extended in the United States when the people demand it. Join me. Together we can accomplish a higher level of expectations for all our children.  

DR. WILLIAM MELÉNDEZ, PH.D., is a retired educator, a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens of California and its former state director.

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