Role of Bilingual Education in India

Bilingual Education in India

Bilingual education is defined as approaches in the classroom that use the native languages of English language learners for instruction. In other words, bilingual education is a concept that involves teaching academic content in two languages, in a native and secondary language with varying amounts of each language used in accordance with the program model. The basic goal of the bilingual education program is to help out the students having limited English proficiency and empower them to master the state curriculum as well as to teach English to all the students participating in the program. This is done through explicit instruction in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in all the academic areas. In this way, limited English proficiency (LEP) students can learn English and still keep pace with native English-speaking students of the same grade level. The goal is to combine equal access and excellence in learning for all students. The goals of bilingual education include:

  • Teaching English to every student
  • Fostering academic achievement
  • Assisting those planning to immigrate to acculturate to a new society
  • Preserving a minority group’s linguistic and cultural heritage
  • Enabling English speakers to learn a second language
  • Developing national language resources

The official language of the Union of India is Hindi, with 21 other regional languages holding co-official status, including Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Education in India follows the Three-language formula, where students are to be taught Hindi, English and the regional language.

Bilingual Education Models

The following are several different types of bilingual education program models that are used worldwide for effective teaching:

  • Transitional Bilingual Education: Transitional or bilingual education type involves education in a child's native language, typically for no more than three years, to ensure that students do not fall behind in content areas like mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English. It is a very effective way to learn a skill in the native language which can then be transferred easily to the second language later. The goal is to help students transition to mainstream, English-only classrooms as quickly as possible, and the linguistic goal of such programs is English acquisition only. In a transitional bilingual program, the student's primary language is used as a vehicle to develop literacy skills and acquire academic knowledge. It is used to develop literacy and academic skills in the primary language.
  • Dual Language Program: Another form of Bilingual Education is a type of Dual Language program that has students study in two different ways:
    • A variety of academic subjects are taught in the students' second language, with specially trained bilingual teachers who can understand students when they ask questions in their native language, but always answer in the second language. An effective knowledge of both the languages as well as demonstration skill is required.
    • Native language literacy classes improve students' writing and higher-order language skills in their first language. Research has shown that many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. In this type of program, the native language classes do not teach academic subjects. The second-language classes are content-based, rather than grammar-based, so students learn all of their academic subjects in the second language.
  • Two-Way or Dual Language Immersion Bilingual Education: These programs are designed to help native and non-native English speakers become bilingual and bi-literate. The two-way bilingual immersion program has 90% of the instructions in grade K-1 in minority language which is less supported by the broader society and 10% in the majority language. This proportion gradually changes in the majority language until the curriculum is equally divided in both the language by 5th grade. The two-way bilingual immersion program is based on the principle of clear curriculum separation of the two languages of instruction. Teachers do not repeat or translate the subject matter in the second language but strengthen concepts taught in one language across the two languages in a spiral curriculum in order to provide a cognitive challenge.
    The languages of instructions are alternated by theme or content area. This type of immersion is required to develop the dual language proficiency, as social language can be mastered in a couple of years, but a higher level of competency is required to read social studies texts or solve mathematics word problems, roughly around 5 to 7 years. Dual Immersion classrooms encourage students’ native language development, making an important contribution to heritage language maintenance and allow language minority students to remain in classrooms with their native English-speaking peers, resulting in linguistic and sociocultural advantages.

Bilingual Education in India

India has one of the largest concentrations of English Language Learners hailing from diverse strata possessing diverse learning needs and abilities. Students that speak other languages are increasing in school systems. Teaching English for Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) is a very progressive field of education that attempts to meet the needs of these students in all setting. As in all education arenas, there are a huge variety of opinions of what works best to teach the English Language Learners (ELL).

To compete with the rest of the world, it is very important for Indian’s to read, write and speak English efficiently. Bilingual education gives in a chance to effectively learn facts and translate the output in any of the desired language forms. India is a country with diverse languages and religion. Every community has their own language and there are almost 21 regional languages in India. It is not possible for each every language to all the students, hence region-wise the local language is the third language to be taught. In almost every state excluding Tamil Nadu, 3 languages, Hindi, English, and a regional language is taught. However, most of the private schools put more emphasis on teaching English. In India, bilingual education provides an easy way of learning, as English is still a problem in some regions. In such cases, with help of a local language, the clarity of the concepts can be assured. Hence for our country where so many languages prevail, bilingual education provides an effective learning experience.

There is an overshadowing amount of information concerning the debate of the pros and cons of bilingual education in India; while not a lot of explicit information describing the other currently implemented models. In addition, the approaches, programs, and models are often all grouped together. Advantages from Bilingual Education Programs implemented with integrity:

  • The family language is valued and both languages are used for a variety of purposes.
  • Bilingualism is promoted at home and school and is socially advantageous
  • Learners have well-developed Language 1 before Language 2 learning begins.
  • Learners have the opportunity to develop literacy in Language 1 as well as the Language 2.

Some Benefits Related to Bilingual Education

Teaching is an art; all good teaching uses the learning tools students already have as the basis for building new skills and acquiring new knowledge. It is not necessary that a good learner can be a good teacher; you need something more than that. Making your students understand well the topics is one such characteristic, a teacher who can explain stuff to students in a simple language and easy manner is the one that students like most. Most children enter school with basic language skills, in English or other languages generally the regional language already in place; it is the duty of the qualified teachers to use those skills to help them develop the academic competence they need to succeed in life. How effectively a teacher utilizes this basic language skill of the children, determines his level of success. Children learn more effectively if they learn English through the use of their native language, which provides a contextual basis for learning and allows them to keep pace with their peer group while acquiring the language they will need to learn in order to interact effectively in today's society.

There are many other distinct benefits of bilingual education, besides its basic effectiveness. As we discussed earlier, it preserves children's sense of pride in the language of their parents, allowing them to move freely in an English-language dominant society while retaining an important link to their cultural and linguistic heritage which is very important for an individual. It helps protect their sense of identity of a community, which is also strongly linked to the language and culture of their family and heritage. Today, there are also economic advantages to bilingual fluency and literacy; there are a lot of employers offering higher salaries to their bilingual employees. In an increasingly global society, the ability to speak and write in several languages is becoming necessary to effectively compete in the job market. Hence this comes out in the form of a yet another advantage. Besides this, bilingual teaching makes the process of teaching as well as learning quite simpler.