The bilingual education agenda along with issues in bilingual education is a topic that antagonizes many people, almost everywhere within the United States.
A group of people think that the English language should be the “official” language of the United States and that bilingual education should be limited, paying more attention to the education in English Language; there are many others who think that a bilingual education will help children adapt better to new languages and other cultures that are steadily growing within the USA.
Statistical data shows that the number of immigrants during the 90′s immigrating into the United States exceeded the numbers of any other era in the history of the US.
In fact, the number of persons living in the States that was born outside the country between 1970 and 2004 has since doubled and it is expected to surpass 40 million people for 2010. The majority of these immigrants came from Latin America and Mexico. Numbers show that, between 1990 and 1999, the Mexican population in the US grew 65%.
Bilingual Education Opportunities
The children arriving into the US come along with their parents, who enter the country coming mainly from Asia or Latin America and under the US constitution; they have the right to receive an education. For most of them, a bilingual education is the only chance they have to integrate to their new culture and society. Although many foreign students can learn the language very easily and quickly, it is not a guarantee that they will successfully be able to integrate fully and completely into the new social schema.
A bilingual education has only one objective: to teach the non-English students the English language and the English speaking ones other languages. This way, conversations can easily be started and social get-togethers are less awkward. Children will adjust more quickly because they will not always feel being outsiders if they can converse in their own language while learning English as well. Math or biology are the same, regardless of the language they are taught.
One of the issues in bilingual education in the US is the necessity to help them in their transition to their new languages, and to be able to grasp and understand the same theory behind the subjects already being taught daily in schools all around the country.
Concerns for Hispanic Immigrants
But each day, more and more issues in bilingual education in the US arise, increasingly turning into a xenophobic attack towards the Hispanic population, their diverse cultures and their common language: Spanish.
More than three quarters of the students with a limited knowledge of English in the US are Hispanics. It is within this group that most of the money and resources are spent and statistically, it takes more time for them to learn English than Asians or Europeans in similar conditions.
A poll taken in Florida shows that 98.1 percent of Hispanic parents want their children to learn the English language and they want them to learn it well, because it is undoubtedly the universal language. It is needed in business and traveling; cross-communication is necessary. Hispanic parents want their children to learn English while staying true to their own culture, and they believe that the best way to learn is receiving a bilingual education.
Another factor creating even more issues in bilingual education in the US is the belief that immigrants, especially those coming from Latin American countries, are a let down that the rest of the English-speaking population has to support. A quarter of the total student population in the US belongs to the group with the lowest income in the country.
Issues in Arizona
Arizona is one of the United States with the highest immigrant population of the country with people coming mainly from Mexico. According to studies and data from 2003, the number of Mexican students who required assistance with the language grew at least 77% between 1990 and 2000.
Arizona has responded issuing laws forbidding the use of any other language besides English in the public schools; this puts a strain on the Spanish speaking students who may have a hard time adjusting as they have not yet learned the English language completely.
In the year 2000, the law derived from proposition 203 is the most representative example of these restrictions being applied to forbid bilingual education. Arguing that it brought no results and it was very costly to implement, this law virtually eliminated every alternative for any kind of bilingual education in that state and this affected thousands of students.
Drop Out Problems
According to statistics, the highest drop-out rate for students falls in those groups of students that have non-English speaking backgrounds. This clearly shows the impact these kinds of laws have on the students because many of them find it very hard to cope in schools. No wonder the drop-out rate for this particular group is very high. This yields to greater criminality rates, since it will be always better to have a teenager sitting in front of a bilingual teacher, than prowling the streets with too much free time, with nothing constructive to do or learn.
Without guidance and without education, only a glum future can be envisioned for these people who struggle to adapt to their new country.