Bilingual Education: From Compensatory to Quality Schooling

Bilingual Education: From Compensatory to Quality Schooling

Bilingual Education: From Compensatory to Quality Schooling

Bilingual Education: From Compensatory to Quality Schooling


Textbook for bilingual education courses that considers all factors that impact how students learn in schools and focuses on how to design and implement comprehensive bilingual education programs.


The controversy that continues to swirl around bilingual education in the United States may appear bizarre to those who view the issues solely from an educational perspective. From the beginnings of history, knowledge of additional languages has always been characteristic of educated and elite groups. Virtually every educational system throughout the world attempts to teach additional languages, and the use of two or more languages as mediums of instruction has become increasingly common during the past 30 years.

Case studies and research from around the world show a similar pattern of outcomes from well-implemented bilingual programs: Students, whether they come from linguistic minority or majority backgrounds, attain extremely good conversational and academic skills in both languages of instruction. As documented in María Estela Brisk's lucid account, for majority language students, there is no cost to their first language (L1) as a result of receiving most or part of their instruction through a minority language; for minority language students, first language skills can be maintained to a reasonably high level and second (majority) language skills developed to grade expectations as a result of well-implemented bilingual programs.

I know of no applied linguist who disputes this general pattern of findings. This volume shows clearly the reason for this virtual consensus: The research itself provides overwhelming support for the feasibility of bilingual education and its potential, when implemented appropriately, to contribute to the goal of a linguistically competent society.

Why then, have issues surrounding bilingual education been debated with such ferocity and venom in the United States context? Clearly, there is abundant evidence of a recurrence of xenophobia and paranoia in regard to the "infiltration" of cultural and linguistic diversity. But the same is true of other countries (e.g., in Europe). In these countries, racism against immigrants is not associated with bilingual education to any significant degree.

A major reason for the difference is that bilingual education for recent immigrant groups (as compared to long-term national minorities) exists only in isolated and usually experimental programs in most countries outside the United States (programs for Finnish minority groups in Sweden represent an exception to this). In the United States, by contrast, bilingual programs have been mandated and implemented to a significant extent across the country. For almost 200 years, the implications of the U.S. constitution for educational equity were largely ignored, but in the 1960s and 1970s, these constitutional provisions became powerful tools . . .

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