Bilingual Education

Ofelia García and Luz Yadira Herrera

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Bilingual Education

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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“Bilingual education” refers to the use of two languages in education for different purposes. In the United States, bilingual education has been used to educate Latinos throughout history, especially after the passage of the Bilingual Education Act (1968) and the judicial decision of Lau v. Nichols 1974 that followed on the civil rights era. Sometimes bilingual education aims to develop both the English and the Spanish of Latinos, but often its sole aim is to ensure that Latinos who are new to English understand the subject matter and learn English well. Bilingual education programs for Latinos are usually classified in three types. (1) Developmental maintenance bilingual education aims to make Latino students bilingual and biliterate and is available regardless of language proficiency. (2) Transitional bilingual education is available only to those who are considered “English language learners” (here referred to as “emergent bilinguals”) until they can show proficiency in English. (3) Two-way bilingual education programs (often called “dual language”) are available to a balanced number of Latinos who are developing English and students who are English speakers, and also aim to make students bilingual and biliterate in each other’s language, under a policy of strictly separating the two languages. Developmental maintenance bilingual education programs fell into disfavor in the 1970s because of fears of Latino linguistic and cultural autonomy. Even transitional bilingual education programs, supported by the Bilingual Education Act since 1974, are under attack today. However, two-way bilingual education programs are growing slowly, especially since the ban on other types of bilingual education in California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, and the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. The greater support for two-way bilingual programs has to do with the inclusion of language-majority children. For Latino children, these programs are often the only way to develop their biliteracy, and many so-called dual language programs are really “one-way” programs, constituted solely of Latino students at different points on the bilingual continuum. Despite their promises, dual-language bilingual education programs have a policy of separating the two languages strictly, and often they do not leverage the bilingual language practices of bilingual communities—what some call “translanguaging.” Latinos were the focus of the bilingual education literature in the United States throughout the second half of the 20th century, and bilingual education was understood as an instrument for their educational equity. But with the emphasis on English language acquisition under No Child Left Behind, and an increasing number of immigrants from different language groups, the focus of the bilingual education literature has changed from Latinos to the more general focus on English language learners.

Article.  12772 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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