The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. The rising number of immigrants in the country has resulted in increased population over the years. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the increasingly heterogeneous society is the multiplicity of the languages spoken by different members. Dissimilarities have resulted in some challenges to which solutions must be sought to have a productive society.
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The biggest downside that has resulted from the increasingly diverse society is inadequacy in the delivery of quality education to students that not only have different nationalities and races but also speak different languages. Given that the earliest settlers in the country were mainly from Europe, the difference in languages spoken by various members of the nation’s society started much earlier. Since the early days, there have been a series of statutes aimed at ensuring that both native and non-native children receive the same quality of education. The regulations have resulted in a series of programs that are meant for the delivery of bilingual education to learners from differing language groups.
The main aim of delivering educational content in more than one language is to enhance literacy among all members of the society. Knowledge and its components are important tools that an individual requires to succeed in various daily life activities.
The existing diversity amongst learners in the US presents a big challenge that has been in the delivery of literacy content. This situation has resulted in an achievement gap whereby native English speakers have an advantage over their counterparts who are not proficient in the language. To close this gap, bilingual education must be promoted and the necessary resources provided to the schools that have a diverse population of learners who speak different languages. This research paper provides an overview of early literacy and academic performance in ELLs.
The importance of education cannot be overstated. As such, it is imperative that every member of the society gets an equal chance to access the highest quality of knowledge that can be offered. However, with the increasingly diverse population of the United States, it is difficult to guarantee learners equal opportunities to get access to the same level of education. It is because of this challenge that bilingual education is becoming a vital aspect of the education sector in the country.
Bilingualism in education, however, is not a phenomenon that started recently. One of the founding fathers of the nation, Benjamin Franklin, had tried to assimilate German speakers by having them enroll in English academies to become proficient in the English language (Kim, Hutchison, & Winsler, 2015). These attempts did not bear fruit as members of the society continued to speak their native languages that were mainly European.
The insistence on speaking their native languages and increased immigration into the United States led to a legislation that was meant to give equal educational opportunities to native English speakers and those who were less proficient. Some of the decrees that have shaped the delivery of content in multiple languages include the Title VII of the Elementary and Bilingual Education Act that was in place from 1968 to 2002, the equal opportunity Act of 1974, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Kim et al., 2015). These regulations have been put in place to ensure that language is not a barrier to learners.
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To adhere to these legislations and promote bilingual education, various programs have been implemented by the schools to favor learners whose native language is not English. The 50-50 two-way bilingual immersion that involves the delivery of educational content in equal proportions of a foreign language and English is one the programs (Kim et al., 2015). Another one is the 90-10 two-way plan that delivers 90% of content in early years in a partner language and the remaining percentage in English (Kim et al., 2015).
Both of these methods involve pairing native speakers and learners who are not proficient in English. Apart from the two-way strategies are the late exit programs that enable content to be delivered first in the students’ native language and later in English. The variations in percentages are similar to those in the two-way programs. Transitional programs are also used to enhance bilingual teaching in some schools.
These entail teaching content in the native language of the student until they have gained sufficient proficiency to be allowed into English classes. These programs are meant to address the increasing diversity among English language learners as they have different strengths and needs that must be taken into account to deliver the best quality of education possible.
The main aim of promoting bilingual education is to make sure that learners have adequate levels of literacy. Literacy involves the possession of the abilities to read, write, listen, understand and solve basic arithmetic problems (Durgunoglu & Verhoeven, 2013). These are skills that are necessary for one to succeed in various aspects of life. They must be delivered in a language that the learner understands and can easily remember. For this reason, bilingual education is an integral part of helping to shape the lives of English learners by eliminating the language barrier.
The components of literacy that should be delivered to learners in various languages include writing, phonological awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and decoding. The promotion of bilingual education ensures that these important aspects of literacy are taught in languages that learners are most familiar with.
The above literacy components can be delivered through various programs. Some of the literacy programs include family literacy, media literacy, digital literacy, and emergent literacy (Durgunoglu & Verhoeven, 2013). Through these programs, students gain the required levels of literacy that are necessary for their daily lives.
The process of delivering literacy content is often met with various challenges. The achievement gap is the most serious problem. It refers to the difference that occurs in the educational performance of learners as a result of their socioeconomic disparities (Strand, 2014). Income, gender, racial, and ethnic differences result in a diverse population of English learners (Durgunoglu & Verhoeven, 2013). For this reason, learners have varying achievement levels in learning literacy contents. To ensure equitable education, the gap must be closed by policymakers and educational instructors.
The gap can be closed by ensuring cultural issues are addressed through the employment of staff that is culturally diversified and training them to be sensitive to the social variations among the students (Strand, 2014). It can also be addressed by providing adequate support to learners with special needs, employing learner-centered instruction methods, and providing enough resources including funds and instructional facilities to support schools with diversified student populations.
The provision of quality education to a diverse population as seen in the United States has always been a challenge. Even though early leaders of the nation such as Benjamin Franklin attempted to make English the only spoken language in the country, the high rates of immigration have since ensured that the nation’s population is made up societies that have national, racial, and ethnic disparities. To ensure that all the United States citizens receive the same level of education regardless of their native languages, bilingual education has been promoted in many states to assist learners whose native languages are not English. A series of laws have been put in place to support the delivery of quality educational content to all learners.
They have enabled the provision of bilingual education through various programs offered by schools across the country. Two-way, one-way, and transitional bilingual programs have been used to deliver instruction, with each school choosing to implement the best plan that best suits its diverse student population.
Bilingual education enhances the delivery of literacy components such as phonological awareness, decoding, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. These are delivered via literacy programs such as media literacy, digital literacy, family literacy, and emergent literacy. However, the teaching of mastery content faces the challenge of the educational achievement gap that results from the socioeconomic differences between learners.
The difference in performance that is brought about by this problem must be addressed to ensure all learners are accorded equal opportunities in education. It can be solved by employing a culturally diverse staff, advanced methods of instruction, providing adequate support to needy students, and availing appropriate resources to schools that accommodate diverse student populations.
Durgunoglu, A. Y., & Verhoeven, L. (2013). Literacy development in a multilingual context: Cross-cultural perspectives. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Kim, Y. K., Hutchison, L. A., & Winsler, A. (2015). Bilingual education in the United States: A historical overview and examination of two-way immersion. Educational Review, 67(2), 236-252.
Strand, S. (2014). School effects and ethnic, gender and socio-economic gaps in educational achievement at age 11. Oxford Review of Education, 40(2), 223-245.
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