Since the late 19th century, bilingual education has become an internationally popular phenomenon. The growing globalization has provided a great variety of opportunities to individuals and societies, such as a wealth of employment options and avenues for international cooperation. A search for outstanding talents has led to the improvement of the educational systems in both developed and developing countries struggling to cope with the global development. Bilingual education can be defined as a pedagogical approach that aims to improve linguistic abilities of a certain group of individuals, and strengthen social unity of different communities.
Nevertheless, whether bilingual education is advantageous for individuals and societies or not has become a controversial issue. It has been argued that bilingual education became an international education system because of its cognitive and socio-economic benefits. However, it is also suggested that bilingual education has an ineffective influence on the individuals and societies. Indeed, this essay argues that there is a convincing evidence to support the assertion that bilingual education can have adverse effects on individuals and societies; for example, the fact of the minority cultures being subsumed by the dominant cultures and a gradual decline of the minority languages.
In order to demonstrate the significance of these adverse effects of bilingual education, the essay is divided into three main sections. The first section shows the implications associated with bilingual education in terms of a loss of cultural identity of one culture to another; gradual extinction of the minority languages as detrimental result associated with bilingual education; and the effect of bilingual education on the immigrants. The second section discusses the academic issues related to bilingual education, which display its negative influence on the individual’s intelligence, and bilingual teachers, who can play an unfavorable role in some situations. In the third section, this essay explains the financial implication of bilingual education including the fact that it has become the preserve of the wealthy; therefore, in some countries, bilingual education is not the best option due to its high cost and low productivity.
Implications Associated with Bilingual Education
The Loss of Cultural Identity
It has been claimed that bilingual education might be an effective solution to the problem of cultural collision in the society. In the United States, the demographic growth of Hispanic Americans to almost 16.9 million in 1985 is supposed only to increase in the future. In such a situation, the cultural conflict between Native Americans and Hispanic Americans is likely to appear. Garcia and Baker (2007) suggest that American bilingual education programs could become a solution of this issue if offered and implemented by the United States government. The United States also financially supports bilingual education programs to make them free of charge for Hispanic Americans. In this manner, by providing and sponsoring the bilingual education programs, the government of the United States created a multicultural community. Therefore, it is obvious that the bilingual education can be an effective approach to cope with the cultural collision produced by the cultural variety in one society.
However, there is another reasonable assertion that teaching bilingual education in the domain of state education, especially in the primary school, can lead to the fragmentation of culture and national identity. For example, the bilingual education programs in the United States secretly has two aims. The first task is to speed up the assimilation of the Hispanic Americans culture into the native society. Another aim is to make bilingual education in the USA a remedial program for immigrants who are probably the poor and the disadvantaged. It seems that the bilingual education programs in the USA only accelerate the decline of the Hispanic culture. In other words, bilingual education could lead to the minority cultures being subsumed by the dominant cultures. Therefore, it becomes obvious that bilingual education can have adverse effects on the minorities’ cultures.
Effect of Bilingual Education on Immigrants
It has been suggested that by facilitating the educational issue, bilingual education could alleviate the distress for immigrants, who have been speaking one language only but then tried to master a new one,. In the United States, according to the Bilingual Education Act, adopted in 1968, the federal funding is provided to support southeast inhabited mostly by Hispanic Americans . In such a manner, the United States of America supplies annually $1,700 million in favor of the bilingual education programs. Moreover, in Canada and Europe, bilingual education support immigrants, as well as, encourage bilingualism in speakers of the majority languages. Therefore, bilingual education could be advantageous for the immigrants.
Nevertheless, despite several positive effects of bilingual education, it faces difficult challenges that limit its effectiveness for immigrants. Peal and Lambert (cited in Padilla et al., 1990) indicate that the question of a language handicap in the bilingual education programs does not allow immigrants, such as Hispanic Americans, to improve their educational achievements. As a result, the Mexican American children fall behind the Native American students in reading, as well as other fields of studying by more than two years. Therefore, the bilingual education directly or indirectly is unbeneficial for immigrants because it reduces their academic performance in comparison with the native language students.
Extinction of the Minority Languages
It has been argued that the essence of bilingual education is teaching academic content in two languages, a native and second one, in order to preserve both languages. For example, in Canada, implementation of the bilingual education program is reasonable because the subjects are taught in two languages, which are English as a majority language and French as a minority language. Therefore, in such case, bilingual education can be considered beneficial for the survival of the minority languages.
Notwithstanding the beneficial role of bilingual education to the minority languages, it also contributes to extinction of the minority languages. This fact provides a more convincing argument of its unbeneficial character. For example, in the USA, a two-way immersion program (TWI), which is a bilingual education program, stipulates teaching the English language learners in both English and their native language at different times of the day within one class. According to the program, there is no specific minority language at all. It seems that TWI aims to integrate Hispanic Americans into complete atmosphere of the English language. Therefore, unequal teaching of English and native language in TWI supports the deterioration of the native language skills, consequently, it may lead to the language complete extinction in the future.
Moreover, political and economic factors are characteristic to the bilingual education. In the USA, the English language mastery is equated with political loyalty to the country. The federal funding also goes for studying of the Asian languages such as Mandarin and Japanese because of their superiority to other languages because of the economic issues. Therefore, studying rather the majority than minority languages is more advantageous for schools because of the opportunity to receive federal funding. It should be noted that such a tendency will support rapid disappearance of the minority languages.
Additionally, the study of the minority languages cannot occur within the bilingual education programs because there are no possibilities to choose a language for studying. For instance, in Australia, the schools that follow the CLIL, which is one of the bilingual education programs, are forced to teach in English as the majority language in order to receive federal finance. Therefore, the immigrants in Australia cannot study any other foreign language because Australian schools reject such possibility.
It also should be noted that, any minority language is rarely taught in the primary and secondary schools of Australia. Therefore, such trend of extensive application of the majority languages in some countries is highly likely to be rather harmful than useful for the minority languages. In addition to this point, such message of the bilingual education programs can be recognized rather unbeneficial than advantageous one because of its purposeful nature to destroy the minority languages by limiting their studying at schools, as well as, eliminating possibilities to choose any other language except English to study.
Academic Issues that Accompany Bilingual Education
The Influence on Individual Intelligence
It is claimed that bilingual education can positively affect individual intelligence. As compared to monolingual education, bilingual education contributes to the development of individual intelligence and thus makes possible competitiveness between the students. Marian and Shook (2012) suggest that intellectual functioning and individual’s intelligence are positively influenced by bilingualism in terms of the results of their intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. Therefore, bilingual education could be effective for individuals.
However, the recent research has, in fact, shown that the bilingual education for children has a negative impact on their intelligence and cognitive abilities because they have a hard time comprehending, learning, and understanding the given information. According to Laurie, children do not benefit from bilingual education because their intellectual and spiritual growth instead of the progress has fallen to half. It seems that the bilingual education is an element of the children’s road to intellectual development, but instead of supporting it, bilingual education becomes a barrier to academic growth that undoubtedly has a negative nature.
Moreover, it should be noted that bilingual education causes difficulties in thinking because of the mental confusion that negatively affect bilingual students. According to Baker (2006), monolingual students achieved better results than bilingual students who were tested for IQ. It appears that the bilingual education could be ineffective for the students’ high achievement and development of individual thinking and increase of intellectual capabilities. Therefore, bilingual education can be unbeneficial for individuals’ intelligence because it causes harmful impact on thinking, academic achievement, and usage of intellectual potentiality.
Teachers as the Key Component of Bilingual Education
Some research claims that the bilingual education programs are embodied by teachers, who play the crucial role in providing children with knowledge of the language, promoting their resistance to problems, and thus achieving academic progress. Moreover, the bilingual education teachers are usually quite demanding of their students, and expect them to show high academic performance. According to Padilla et al. (1990), teachers who aspire to success usually have high standards and demands, provide a massive deal of input, and give students feedback and positive rewards. Therefore, expectations of the bilingual education teachers greatly affect the academic performance of the bilingual students who are forced to understand the subjects being studied to them in two languages. Consequently, it seems that teachers play an important role in the success of the bilingual education.
However, it should be noted that not always the bilingual education teachers have the positive impact on the students’ achievements. For instance, aggressive attitude of a teacher towards his students-representatives of the language minorities adversely influences the language teaching. Murray and Fairchild stated that, the African American children suffered from such phenomenon as conditioned failure that could be associated with the long-term abasement. In other words, the continuous derogatory treatment of the linguistic minority students by teachers caused them low self-esteem.
Moreover, the contrast between the performance of the African American students and White ones can lead to disastrous consequences. In such a manner, the teacher’s abusive attitude towards the linguistic minority students in bilingual education program could be a key reason of their poor achievements in learning another language and low self-confidence. Therefore, bilingual education can be disadvantageous for individuals due to the teachers’ insulting treatment of students.
Financial Implication of Bilingual Education
Bilingual Education as the Preserve of the Wealthy
It is suggested that bilingual education may help individuals increase their income. It seems that being skilled in more than one language provides more chance to have a job in the future. Garcia (2009) argues that a form of language and its future applicability are the crucial factors of students’ motivation to learn one or another language. Consequently, the parents prefer their children to study more useful and profitable languages that are the majority languages, which remain a key component of their future employment. Therefore, bilingual education might contribute to the improving economic situation of an individual.
However, the socio-economic status of the family plays an important role in accessing bilingual education, which demands special equipment and funds. Prosperous families are more capable of supporting the appropriate environment of their children who study not-native languages in well-organized schools with skilled teachers. Bilingual education demands appropriate literature, professional teachers, and specially equipped classes that can provide students with good knowledge. Undoubtedly, bilingual education requires specific material resources that can be affordable not to everyone.
Another serious point related to bilingual education is the private tutoring. It could cause a gap between rich and poor students with respect to the quality, which leads to the disaffected attitudes to the society. For instance, in primary Grade 1, the rate of pupils receiving private tutoring because of the difficulties associated with bilingual education in the highest incomes group was 7.5 times higher than the rate of pupils in the lowest income group. Therefore, the quality of bilingual education received by children from the wealthy families greatly differs from is the one obtained by the students of poor parents.
Accordingly, it is normal that the unjust character of bilingual education generates social disharmony, because poor parents cannot provide their children with additional education resources, such as private tutoring. Therefore, the adverse effect of bilingual education on societies can be seen through its role in causing inequality that deprives children of opportunities for high-quality education.
It has also been argued that mastering and practicing the second language is considered a key element for the success of the bilingual education programs. However, even if the students dedicate much time to studying the language, which is not their native one, they will not be able to practice it because of no available opportunities.
In such case, the wealthy families have an opportunity to send their children to the country, the language of which is studied as the foreign one. This practice is rather beneficial to them. For example, the practical skills in the foreign language acquired in the native language environment provide students with a better comprehension of the language peculiarities, especially idiomatic expressions. Therefore, the efficiency of bilingual education is pretty high for students with such opportunities.
As compared to the rich parents, the poor ones do not have such opportunities. It means that their children cannot use their knowledge in practice, and thus develop their skills. Such students continue studying not-native languages from the textbooks; moreover, the teachers do not allow them to grow intellectually in full force. Therefore, bilingual education is not an advantageous phenomenon as it fails to establish and support the unity of different social layers; it divides people on social classes and promotes social disparity.
High Cost and Low Productivity of Bilingual Education
It has been suggested that bilingual education demands large-scale financial resources. Nevertheless, its high value and low productivity negatively influence the developing countries. For example, China and other developing countries are not interested in financial contribution into studying the languages because it requires a great number of qualified teachers, as well as appropriate textbooks. This means that the bilingual education causes unwanted expenses for the country. Therefore, bilingual education has a negative impact on the economy of developing countries because it demands additional finances.
In addition, the output of bilingual education in different countries is disappointing. For example, the Canadian graduates, being the students of the Canadian Immersion program, stated that French had not played a positive role in their life and knowledge in it became even worse.
Moreover, according to Bennett in the USA, there are no evidences that children have benefited from the bilingual education programs after 17 years and $1.7 billion of federal funding. Therefore, it appears that regarding to these views, bilingual education has a negative impact on the economy and society as a whole.
Considering the evidences represented in this essay it can be stated that the bilingual education has negative consequences to both individuals and societies. Unbeneficial character of the bilingual education can be seen in its harmful impact on the culture and language of the minorities. Additionally, such components of bilingual education programs as teacher, governmental support, and socio-economic status of the family can be noted as the principal factors of the minority language degradation. Moreover, all these factors also support the loss of the culture identity among the minority students. In addition, bilingual education promotes social disparity that in turn cause disharmony in the entire world.
Finally, current education system is in need of changes to become more accessible to students of different social status, and thus to be equitable for both native inhabitants and immigrants, equal education will further cultural and linguistic harmony instead of causing a cultural threat and lost minority languages. Several suggestions have been advanced to overcome the disadvantages of bilingual education. Firstly, the gap between the majority and minority languages should be reduced. Furthermore, the possibility of the language decline should be taken into serious consideration, and thus solved by the effective approaches from the government and society. Secondly, the role of teacher is crucial in the students’ academic success, it should be noted that, professional ethics and academic teaching have to be built up in order to provide students with high-quality education. Therefore, teachers should display loyalty and respect towards the language minority students.
Therefore, if these suggestions are implemented in the future, the bilingual education will become beneficial both to individuals and societies.
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