Saturday, November 22, 2014

Matthew Lynch — 5 Reasons Bilingual Education Should Be Mandatory from Kindergarten On Up

What is your opinion on mandating bilingual education programs?
No brainer. Spanish especially, since it is a very easy language to learn and highly useful in the Western Hemisphere.

I would go further have introduce a program in language skills where children from pre-K learn the basics of language by imitating the sounds of a variety of languages, especially those that are likely to be useful later in life.

And, yes, I am thinking in particular of Chinese, which is a difficult language to learn because meaning depends on tonal difference of the same syllable. This is relatively simple for young children to pick up and very difficult to master later in life. Obviously, Chinese is going to be increasingly important as this century progresses.

If a person learns a second language very young and also how to pronounce the sounds of different languages, language learning is relatively simple.

Lynch lists five reasons for this but there are many more. In fact, speaking more than one language even reduces one's chances of dementia.

AlterNet
5 Reasons Bilingual Education Should Be Mandatory from Kindergarten On Up
Matthew Lynch, Ed.D. | editor of The Edvocate, www.theedadvocate.org

7 comments:

Bob said...

Can it be demonstrated that these programs are effective? In Canada, French is taught as a second language. This has not resulted in bilinugal fluency.
I learned French because I grew up in an environment where it was spoken. What I learned in school was next to useless.
Mandatory is a word used by bureaucrats.

Tom Hickey said...

Because one was taught ineffectively doesn't mean that's the only way. I was taught ineffectively at first, too, and it was not only in languages. Later I got serious about language study and found some ways to learn much more quickly and effectively by focusing on sound. But by then the ability to imitate sound had greatly diminished, and I wished I had been exposed much earlier to this method.

When I was a kid math instruction was especially abysmal. It was more about turning kids off to math rather than getting them excited about learning it. That doesn't mean that math should be abandoned but rather than the teaching of math improved by making it a path to discovery.

I'm a fan of Sir Ken Robinson on education as development of creativity. John Dewey said much the same thing about the role of experience in education.

Regarding mandatory requirements, neither children nor most parents are in a position to know either what needs to be learned or how best to do it. I have some very well educated friends who decided to home school their kids. Eventually, the children were admitted to top universities.

But many parents don't have the time, inclination or ability to do home school. They expect the schools to do educate their children expertly, and that is a reasonable assumption. It's also the case that many parents feel that this is not working.

Education is a political animal in the US and there is a lot of disagreement over what should be taught in school as well as how to teach it. So this is another area of contention. Consequently, many children are ill served as are the community and nation.

This isn't the place to debate education. What is important for our purposes is that affordability is not the issue as many claim and education is one of the areas in which public investment has an exceptionally high return, and lack of investment has dire consequences.

Every developed country can afford to give every child a quality education, and must in order to maintain its position. And developing countries cannot afford not to if they want to develop.

One of the areas of highest returns is public investment in the early years, not only education but also health care and environment. This is where the big jumps can be made very quickly at a relatively low cost, too. Not to do so is just wasteful of opportunity.

Bob said...

What is an appropriate response to criticism?
a) hand-wringing
b) addressing the problem
c) ignoring it
d) abandoning it

I'm all for improving second language instruction, but it is no substitute for a multilingual environment.

Everybody is against the waste of human potential, in theory.

Tom Hickey said...

I'm all for improving second language instruction, but it is no substitute for a multilingual environment.

And that is increasingly available in the US, especially with Spanish. We should be taking advantage of it in the schools.

Malmo's Ghost said...

Mandatory bilingual education is a non starter in America. In this day and age it's simply another politicized liberal drivel meme anyways. There are far bigger fish to fry on this side of the pond. Heck, if anything, lets concentrate on getting a common language, say English, down cold first.

Bob said...

And that is increasingly available in the US, especially with Spanish. We should be taking advantage of it in the schools.

I didn't realize the US was a melting pot.

Tom Hickey said...

And down the road we are going to be arguing about who lost Latin America.