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Language Education and Canada's Indigenous Peoples

Introduction to Bilingual Education in Australia

When looking through introduction to study of bilingualism, we can see that it is often mentioned that over half the population of the world is bilingual. There are actually more bilingual in bilingual countries than so called uni-lingual countries, claimed by Mackey, 1970. Although, this claim seems to be too old, but still fits in today’s scenario. One of the most salient feature of bilingualism is that it is polymorphic phenomenon. It doesn’t matter if one is considering at a community, or an individual level, one can accept is hard to distinguish point. As bilingualism nullifies limitations, it is open to variety of explanation, interpretation and definitions. The concept of bilingualism is firmly established in the mind in the ordinary person. The simplest definition was given by Uriel Weinreich, one of the father of bilingual studies, “the practice of alternately using two languages will be called bilingualism, and the person involved will be called bilingual.” Globally, every year school, college graduates face a high demand from employer, so, to fulfil the task, the states makes the educational process develop basic competencies for students. One of the major problem of bilingualism is still actual, conflicting phenomenon, supported by strict territorial boundaries and the desire to standardize the language of public education and administrative management.

Although there are many benefits of the bilingual education policies, but there are also many obstacles in implementing those policies. For example; In most parts of the US the challenge is to overcome the already prevailed tradition approach that literacy and content learning in a foreign language other than English is simply waste of time on not learning English. Such English-only headset have been imposed on state-level educational systems in recent years, and have made the implementation of bilingual programs particularly demanding in some states. Still, bilingual education programs do exist in many nations, and here we characterize the challenges which comes in the way of implementing bilingual programs.

Challenges

Teacher Training

Despite the possible feature of quality educational programs that advocates bilingualism, the New Standards also pose challenges that need to be considered when training teachers for bilingual education programs. A research has been conducted, which reports that successful teachers of bilingual learners need knowledge of the students, the content, the language, and effective practices. Also, they must have undergone learning of the second language to understand the students better (Clayton, 2008; Lucas & Villegas, 2011).

Curriculum and Materials Development

The curriculum and materials for educating in both languages must nurture and support the demands made by the New Standards. Coleman and Pimentel (2011) propose a list of criteria for materials to harmonize with the New Standards. They recommend high-quality texts that provide a wide range in elaboration. These text material should include high-quality text-dependent questions and tasks to enhance academic vocabulary. These materials should raise analysis of texts to provide evidence for argumentation and should support factual and argumentative writing, as well as the construction of research projects. They should encourage involvement in academic debates and discussion, covering of grammar and language conventions, and the use of multimedia and technology. For bilingual programs, this means that the study material must be in both languages; English and the other language. This could be a challenge in preparing such material which accommodates and rectify both languages.

Failure to Use the Vernacular

The vernacular is the native dialect or sometimes slangs, it is the way that people use to talk with each other in day to day life. The justification for bilingual education is based on the use of native language for continuous growth while English is being taught as a second language. Initial efforts were limited, and are still constrained, by the lack of a large population of trained teachers, mastered in the student’s native language and apparent gap of instructional and educational materials in languages other than English. For example; In Texas, instead of addressing the massive pool of native language speakers and facilitating their entry into the teaching profession, the educational authority opted for two approaches that proved biased. One was to develop other language facility among English speaking teachers and the other involved the enormous admission of Spanish speaking teachers from other countries.

Xenophobia

Xenophobia is the hatred towards strangers and foreigner. Such kind of hatred is pertained in languages also. So far, language conflicts have not been openly assumed as a problem by the schools. This tend to present instruction in the English language with little or no care for the consequences for non-English speaking children. An example for such biased nature is that it took nine justices of the United States Supreme Court in the unanimous decision in Lau v. Nichols to inform the education authorities of the San Francisco Unified School District that if 1,800 children spoke Chinese and no English, and the teachers spoke English and no Chinese, the schools had an educational problem. The San Francisco district responded by saying that it is not their problem that students don’t know English, they must be comfortable with English as the main motive behind their education is to learn in English.

Bilingual Education in Australia

The Australia’s bilingual experience is divided broadly into three categories: Indigenous groups and their languages, immigrant groups and their languages (both of these groups seeking language maintenance and intergenerational vitality), and the mainstream English speaking individuals. All of these interests share a common goal of campaigning for more serious and substantial language education programs, but there is slight difference in purpose and context of their support of bilingual education. Let us look at the overview of historical, political, and educational influences on types of bilingual education that have evolved, in the context of state and national language policy and practices, to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians, migrant communities, and Anglophones (Bianco & Slaughter, 2017).

The government of Australia launched the Australian second language learning program. This program provides funds to the State, territory and non-government school for promoting innovative and high quality projects of national importance in other languages apart from English, hence maintaining a balance between all languages. These include:

  • Languages spoken by communities(e.g. Greek, Turkish or Vietnamese),
  • Languages of economic and geo-political importance (e.g. Arabic, Mandarin or Japanese)
  • Languages taught as part of mother tongue maintenance programs for non-English speaking background children, and those taught as second languages.

The total budget for this program is worth $7.44 Million for three years. A national component for this program has also been funded. Some of the programs initiated in Australia are cross-cultural training programs, initiatives in Asian studies, expansion of the new arrivals component of the English as a second language program, ‘The National Aboriginal Languages Program’ and ‘Australian Advisory Council on Languages and Multicultural Education’.

Bilingual Education in the USA

The USA has a long history of different forms of bilingual education (Crawford 1989; Ramsey 2012) and the teaching language mode other than English witnessed a lot of support as well as opposition. The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 gave an important push to bilingual education programs and policies. However, during the 1980s and 1990s ‘the English only’ movement gave rise to resistance to such programs. Fortunately, gradually the political scenario changed as answerability and assessment gained importance. Legal changes in 1994 made the English language part of the assessment of students’ progress. The debates centred on the one hand on arguments that more time for English exposure leads to better results, and on the other hand, the view that teaching both the home language and English has better outcomes (see Valentino and Reardon 2014 on this debate in research).

A major drawback of bilingual education programs in the US, is that there is a constant supremacy of English over any other native languages. The focus of the language policy is on English and if other languages are used, this is often transitional. . It can be useful to achieve literacy in other languages but a high level of literacy in English is crucial for external examinations and for access to higher education. It is a unidirectional process about how to best get to proficiency in English.

 The ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ (ESSA 2015), which is basic education law was latest updated in 2016. This act provide more flexibility and return responsibility for assessment, and improvised upon some problematic aspects of ‘English learner’ of the NCBL act to the states and local authorities, although it lacks explicit provisions for dual language programs, bilingual education, or multilingual enrichment programs (TESOL 2015).

Bilingual Education in Canada

The story of bilingual education in Canada is different from that of the US. English and French are the official languages of Canada and French is spoken majorly in Quebec. French immersion programs developed in Canada in the 1960s are quite well known internationally. In such programs, at least half of the instructions are delivered in French or other non-native languages of the participating students, during some part of elementary and/or secondary school for majority language English-speaking students. These programs are aimed at students with English as a first language and students acquire high levels of competence in French mainly in receptive skills (Genesee and Lindholm-Leary 2013). There are also French-medium schools aimed mainly at French L1 speakers where English is just a school subject. Language education policies for indigenous people are largely lacking (Sarkar and Lavoie 2014).

French, along with English, is an official language in Canada and thus has a different status when compared to Spanish and other languages in the USA. Although the regulations are not the same in each province, in the cases in which external examinations are administered, they can be both in English and French. There are English-medium and French-medium Canadian colleges and universities. Most French-medium institutions of higher education are located in Quebec but there are also some universities and colleges in other provinces. In general terms, it can be said that language policy in Canada is more bilingual than the language policy of the USA. In fact, in Canada there are provisions for speakers of the two languages both in assessment and in access for higher education.

Conclusion on Bilingual Education in Australia

The language is not merely a tool for communication, but a cultural identity of an individual or group. Respect for the languages of persons belonging to different linguistic communities therefore is essential to peaceful sharing. This applies both to majority groups, to minorities (whether traditionally resident in a country or more recent migrants) and to indigenous peoples (Ball, 2107). The main hindrance in bilingual education system is lack of awareness about knowledge of other language and the sense of supremacy of one language over other. There should bilingualism should be promoted and taught amongst students. There are many efforts, put on by many nations to remove obstacles from learning in one’s own language. The education institutes must remove the phobia and indulge the educators and students into bilingual friendly environment.

References for Bilingual Education in Australia

Book

Hoffmann, C., (1991), Introduction to Bilingualism, Pearson education ltd., 1991

Journals

Baker, 2011. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. 5th ed. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 

Ball, J., (2107), Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds.

Bianco J. & Slaughter Y., (2017), Bilingual Education in Australia, Encyclopaedia of Language andEducation, Edition 3rd, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02258-1_22 04 January 2017.

Bianco, J., Making language policy: Australia’s experience in Baldauf, R. B. Jr. and Luke, A. (eds.) Language Planning and Education in Australasia and the South Pacific, (Multilingual Matters 55) Philadelphia, Clevedon, 1990.

Brisk, M.E. & Proctor, C.P., Challenges and Supports for English Language Learners in Bilingual Programs, Boston College, https://ell.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/academic-papers/11-Brisk%20Bilingual%20Programs%20FINAL_0.pdf.

Clayton, C. (2008), Whatever it takes: Exemplary teachers of English language learners, Retrieved from Dissertation Abstract International, Vol. 69, 11A.

Coleman, D. & Pimentel, S. (2011), Publisher’s criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Art and Literacy, Grades 3-12.

Genesee, , &Leary, K.L., 2013, Two Case Studies of Content-Based Language Education, Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, Vol. 1, pp. 3–33,DOI:10.1075/jicb.1.1.02gen.

Lewis, & Jones, B., (2012), Translanguaging: Developing its Conceptualisation and Contextualization, Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, Vol.18 (7), pp. 655–670, DOI:10.1080/13803611.2012.718490.

Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in early childhood and early primary school years, University of Victoria, May 13, 2017.

Sarkar, &Lavoie, C., (2014), Language Education and Canada's Indigenous Peoples.” In Minority Languages and Multilingual Education, pp. 85–103.

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