The terms "Bilingual Education" and "English Immersion Instruction"
represent very different approaches to teaching U.S. students whose native language is not
Unfortunately, both of these terms have been imbued with politically-correct
interpretations which have nothing to do with the actual meaning of these terms.
Bi-Lingual Education: Definition
See Also English-Immersion
So-called "Bi-Lingual Education" programs force limited speakers of English to
be assigned to a class or classroom where they learn to speak, read and write in their
home language before learning English. In other words, they don't learn English in
For example, Spanish-speaking immigrant children are required to remain in
"Spanish-only" classrooms, receiving instruction exclusively in Spanish, for up
to four years, and even longer for some. Only after the student is designated as
being fluent in English would such a child's instruction in English-only begin in earnest.
Criticisms of "Bi-Lingual Education"
Some research indicates that
immigrant students who have been subjected to traditional Bi-Lingual Education often find
that they are well behind the performance of other students in academic subjects once the
students are finally "main streamed" into English-only classrooms.
Critics have called Bi-Lingual
Education "racial segregation" and compare putting immigrant students into
non-English speaking classes to the outlawed practice of putting blacks into black-only
English-Immersion Instruction: Definition
See Also Bi-Lingual Education
"English-Immersion" programs place immigrant school children who have limited
skills in the English language (e.g., Spanish-speaking immigrants) to be taught
overwhelmingly in English in order to shorten the length of time these children have to
spend not understanding the dominant language in our culture and in our educational
Under "English-Immersion", school children who are not proficient in English are
required to be taught for at least one year in a structured English-immersion classroom
where they are primarily taught to read, write and speak English.
When these students demonstrate proficiency in English they are then assigned to a
"mainstream" class in which teaching of traditional academic subjects such as
math, geography, and social studies is conducted exclusively in English.
Criticisms of "English-Immersion" Instruction
Opponents of English-Immersion
Instruction (including supporters of traditional Bi-Lingual Education) point out that
immigrant children's families must support and reinforce the child's efforts to learn
English when the child is outside of school (i.e., while at home). Without support
and encouragement of the immigrant child's family to learn English, critics suggest that
English Immersion Instruction will fail and immigrant students would thus have been better
off learning their U.S. school courses in Spanish.
California's successful Proposition 227 initiative mandated "English-Immersion
Instruction" for non-native speakers of English in our schools. Some current
educational research results seem to indicate that immigrant students who are non-native
speakers of English perform much better in "main stream" classroom settings
after one or more years of "English-Immersion Instruction" than students who
were subjected to traditional "Bi-Lingual Education".
At this writing, the State of Colorado's Amendment 31 -- worded very similarly to
California's Proposition 227 -- is on the Nov. 2002 Colorado ballot and is aimed at
replacing traditional Bi-Lingual Education programs with intensive English-Immersion
Instruction classes for immigrant students.