The Hidden Benefits of a Bilingual Education

In a time where mostly all the world’s problems are based on the clash between cultures and rejection of other races, creeds, nationalities and beliefs, any school promoting a bilingual education scheme is working towards a brighter future for world peace, bridging gaps between society, thus creating a favourable approach towards cultural acceptance.

Teachers are of utmost importance to the educational but also cultural growth of our children, where the latter not only learn maths and literacy skills but also absorb cultural beliefs, manners and ideas.

Far too often inexperienced and inadequately trained teachers that are unfamiliar with children of differing cultures and languages find themselves succumbing to the popular prejudices and misconceptions of ‘differences’ instead of embracing them, and in turn, these children feel left out and the need to hide their cultural roots.

When children are placed into a bilingual educational set-up these prejudices and misconceptions are reversed. They are educated about differences, not just on the surface, but in its core. Learning to speak a language of a different culture is fully immerging in it, embracing it and accepting it as equal importance as our own.

IMG_5173There have been findings that children in bilingual education are at an advantage to their monolingually-educated peers, not only for it’s social benefits.

Jim Cummins, an expert in bilingualism argues that acquired skills may be transferred from one language to another through CUP (common underlying proficiency) and that subjects may be studied in either language. He says that knowledge in the two different languages are not two different things but more easily explained like an iceberg; we see the tips of the iceberg near but separate from one another but what we don’t see is the big mass under the water where all the information meets and is digested.

When literacy skills are effectively improved in one language, it can provide a conceptual foundation for long-term growth in literacy skills in another language. For this to happen beneficially both languages must be taught on a daily basis. When both languages are taught at regular intervals, students can benefit from this cross-linguistic transfer.

Nowadays mainly in English speaking countries, governments are tending to cut out foreign languages altogether in schools, never mind funding bilingual education. They see only the all-importance of a standard English only education but there are so many benefits to a bilingual education that are sometimes overlooked. Bilingual education, as well as all its academic benefits, also helps to develop children’s identities further, foster critical thinking, stimulate empathy and acceptance of social diversity much needed especially in today’s societies.

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