The United States has always been a welcoming and accommodating country for new immigrants. For that reason, since the 1800s, our nation’s schools and teachers have strived to provide specialized education for English Learners (ELs). These specialized programs are ESL (English As A Second Language) and bilingual education. Since the inception of these programs questions have arisen regarding which program is more beneficial for the assimilation and language acquisition of immigrants. This debate has persisted to this day. We will explore both programs; so that you can decide which program you would like to work with.
What Is ESL?
The main goal of ESL is to teach not native ELs how to speak English. ESL classrooms are quite diverse as they have students with an array of native languages. This program is cost-effective, as teachers are only required to speak English, as it is not mandatory for them to speak the native languages of each and every single student in their classrooms. ESL can be taught in several different ways:
- Pull-Out ESL: In this ESL model, EL students are pulled out of their regular classroom for a short period of time each day or week for ESL instruction. EL students can be pulled out solo or in small groups.
- ESL Class Period: This ESL model is typically used with middle and high school students. Rather than being pulled out of their classroom and missing out on part of certain lectures, EL students can take ESL as an elective or part of a language arts course.
- Sheltered English: This ESL model is known as content-based English instruction. In this program, EL students are taught grade-level content in a level of English that they can understand.
What Is Bilingual Education?
Bilingual education programs consist of instruction in both English and the native language of the EL students. All non-native EL students in the same classroom have the same language. The main goal of this program is to teach EL students how to speak English all while teaching grade-level curriculum. Therefore, bilingual education teachers are required to speak both English and the language of their EL students. There are two versions of bilingual education:
- One-Way Bilingual Program: In this program, teachers teach in both English and the native language of their students. Once EL students begin to speak and understand English, teachers begin teaching the students solely in English.
- Two-Way Bilingual Program: In this program, teachers teach in both English and the native language of their students equally. Half of the students in two-way bilingual programs are native English-speakers and the other half are non-native English-speakers. This form of bilingual education is priceless as both groups of students are learning a second language that may be beneficial to them.
ESL VS. Bilingual Education: Which Is Best?”
As you can see, ESL and bilingual education are both effective and provide benefits for both EL students and their teachers, despite being different programs. Nowadays, there are ample schools employing ESL and bilingual education, so it’s up to you to find out what program you prefer working with. For more information regarding EL students, ESL, and bilingual education, visit the Latino Family Literacy Project. Here you’ll find resources to use in your classroom and information that you can use to better inform yourself on how to work with EL students.