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U.S. Bilingual Education Viewed From Abroad

4510 words - 18 pages


U.S. Bilingual Education Viewed From Abroad

When children arrive at school with a language other than the school language, immigrant or indigenous,education�systems throughout the world respond by ignoring or subjugating that language, allowing a transitional phase from the home to the school language, or using both languages in school for a prescribed period. The United States, like most countries of the world, provides�education�for immigrant and indigenous bilingual children. It has also experimented with schools that turn monolingual English language children into bilinguals, but to a much lesser extent than does its neighbor, Canada.

Whereas bilingual�education�is nearly universal, North America generally has the most precisely defined methods and approaches, models, and systems of bilingual�education. Canada has internationally exported the French-language immersion model, but from the United States, models such as mainstreaming (submersion), transitional bilingual�education, and dual-language�education�(two-way immersion) have been publicized internationally. However, the United States has since the late 1990s received worldwide attention for its politicization of bilingual�education�and for moving to an increasingly subtractive, assimi-lationist form of�education�for immigrant children. In short, more than other societies, the United States has tended to view bilingualism and multilingualism as liabilities rather than as assets. What makes the United States internationally distinct in the early 21st century is its fierce political debates about bilingualeducation, and the official discouragement of the prolonged study of languages in schools, in a shrinking world that needs bilingual�education�more than ever.

In this entry, particular dimensions of bilingual�education�reveal the positioning of the United States within international conversations concerning this subject. These dimensions are neither independent nor comprehensive, but illustrate where the United States has separately influenced, provoked, and become estranged from international movements in bilingual�education.

History of Bilingual�Education

Within every country, bilingual�education�needs to be understood against the political, economic, and social�history of that region. In Canada, for example, one root of bilingual�education�in that country was initiated by the St. Lambert experiment that launched Canadian immersion�education�in the 1960s. In Wales, bilingual�education�is often traced to the first elementary bilingual school in Aberystwyth in 1939. In the United States, bilingual�education�is variously historically contextualized in terms of the fate of Native American languages, responses to European immigration in the 18th to 20th centuries, as an offshoot of the civil rights movement, and in response to the immigration of Cuban exiles following Fidel Castro's revolution in the 1960s. The historical con-textualization of bilingual�education�in...

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