Although there are clear advantages, such as the work opportunities available to fully bilingual people, some disadvantages exist when it comes to bilingual education. The relative merits of a bilingual educational system have been debated by parents, governments and educators for decades now. In order to give the matter its due consideration, a careful examination of the downsides needs to be conducted.
Resistance to Change
Bilingual education that caters to immigrant students creates a problem for those students. Instead of learning the dominant language of the new country, the students are more likely to continue to rely mostly on their native language. Relying too much on an old language and not learning the primary language of a new country is a way that people resist assimilation. Single language instruction of a new student is more likely to produce someone who will have an easy time integrating into society.
Educators, lawmakers and others have challenged for decades whether or not bilingual education is actually effective. The argument has been made that bilingual programs make education as a whole more difficult for the students enrolled in the programs. If that is true, enrolling students in those programs is actually putting up stumbling blocks in the way of an education and future career rather than the opposite.
One of the problem presented by bilingual education is the quality of the teachers in the schools. It can be difficult to find enough teachers who are properly qualified and skilled in both languages to teach in these settings. For instance, some schools have hired teachers from abroad with solid Spanish skills to come into bilingual schools, but the result has been teachers without English skills at an adequate level.
More Work for Parents
When a child receives a completely bilingual education, that education requires increased parental involvement. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the child receives the maximum benefit from instruction in both languages, especially if parents only speak one of those languages. Children with parents who are more involved in their education generally have higher success rates, but bilingual education requires even more input than usual from parents.
- University of Michigan: Bilingual Education
- Hoover Institution; Bilingual Education: A Critique; Peter J. Duignan; September, 1998
- Intercultural Development Research Association; Current Problems in Bilingual Education: Part II; Jose A. Cardenas, Ed.D.; 1993
- BBC: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Bilingualism
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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