Models of Bilingual Education Programs

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  • 0:04 A Short History
  • 1:21 Importance
  • 2:19 The Models
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vanessa Botts
Bilingual education has been around in the U.S. for hundreds of years, and today it is even more important and prevalent than ever. In this lesson, we'll provide an overview of various bilingual education program models used in schools today.

A Short History

Did you know bilingual education has been placed throughout many U.S. schools going back hundreds of years? Ohio was the first state to adopt a bilingual education law in the 1800s, and Louisiana followed suit with the New Mexico Territory not too far behind. It may surprise many to know that in the 19th century, bilingual education throughout the nation provided education in languages such as German, French, and Spanish, as well as other languages, such as Norwegian, Italian, and many more.

Then, for a variety of reasons, bilingual education fell out of favor and was even discouraged in the 1920s. This proved detrimental to the success of many students, and finally, in the 1960s, the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was passed. This act provided federal funding to encourage school districts to try a variety of approaches to educate students while incorporating their native language into traditional instruction.

As demographics have shifted and need has increased, bilingual education has gained more prominence and acceptance. By providing students quality education in their primary language, at least partially, students attain both knowledge and literacy.


''You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.'' This Geoffrey Williams quote succinctly summarizes the benefits and importance of bilingual education because allowing students to receive instruction in their first language helps make them understand English, their second language, better.

It stands to reason it's easier to learn in a language we understand, and with some bilingual education models, students have the benefit of learning content in their native language as a springboard to later learning in the new language - English. On the other hand, there are also benefits (and a need) to teach subject matter directly in English, especially for intermediate-level learners and above, and some bilingual education models do just that.

Let's now discuss several models currently used in bilingual education. These models encompass the entire range from teaching in the native language through presenting instruction entirely in English.

The Models

Immersion Model

In the full immersion model, teaching generally takes place entirely in English, but there is also a dual-immersion model where the student group is taught in two languages. Within dual immersion, if students of two language groups are in the same classroom, it would be considered a 'two-way' immersion model, while if there is only one language group, it's considered a 'one-way' model.

There are also enrichment immersion programs that focus on developing the second language skills of students who speak the dominant language. For example, English speakers learning Spanish would be taught mostly or entirely in Spanish.

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