National and International Organizations  on Bilingual Education

National and international organizations have a lot of suggestions and materials available for communities, states, and districts to consider and act on. Those are research results and conclusions, statements and recommendations for actions and actual laws. Organizations on the different level plays important role on advocating the good practices and children rights. For example AFT recognizes the importance of providing special language programs agreed with the Supreme Court’s view that children should not be plunged into classrooms without special help.

It is then depends on a district administration level and school level collectively to analyze their demographical situation and needs to implement one or another approach to Bilingual education for the best results or to the best of their abilities.

The Idea of Bilingual education interests me a lot due to my personal experience in Multilanguage environment. I have leaved in number of countries where English is not home language but kids are going through “international” most often English language education and observed various difficulties of students and parents of multicultural identities. Reading online materials from websites of different organizations gave me lots of ideas to consider about strategies towards studding multiple languages and integration in foreign language society.

I will look at -the concept of Bilingual education- how it is understood -what bilingual educational program exists – how they implemented in US and Sweden-what organizations are publishing on the subject.

The theme of bilingual education can be approached from different perspectives for example:

-Integration in foreign language education

-Preservation of mother tong

-Introduction of foreign language as an advantage for kid’s development

That subject also coincides with children’s rights. For example the right for education needs to be address in a different way if child’s mother tong is differ from the language of provided school instructions.

Humanitarian international organizations involved a lot in that aspect. For example UNICEF states in the Convention on the Rights of the Child that “The right to practice one’s own culture, language and religion applies to everyone; the Convention here highlights this right in instances where the practices are not shared by the majority of people in the country.”

That idea was followed and supported by national organizations in Sweden, where option of mother tongue lessons shall be provided for all “not native” students.

American national organization mostly talks about integration to English so the term English language learners (ELLs) are used a lot.

AFT recognizes the importance of providing special language programs, and agrees with the Supreme Court’s view that children should not be plunged into classrooms without special help.

Main Bilingual education program models are:

1.Transitional Bilingual Education– used to help students transition to mainstream, typically English-only classrooms as quickly as possible 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 used to develop literacy and academic skills in the primary language.

AFT.ORG recommends using home language to promote academic development. They state that, according to research, many of the skills learned in the native language can be transferred easily to the second language later. So in a AFT principles of approaching ELLs stated, that ELLs need early and ample opportunities to develop proficiency in English

  1. Dual Language Immersion (Two-Way) 

 These programs are designed to help native and non-native English speakers become bilingual and biliterate.

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.

Program based on the principle of clear curriculum separation of the two languages of instruction. Teachers do not repeat or translate the subject matter in second language but strengthen concepts taught in one language across the two languages in a spiral curriculum in order to provide cognitive challenge.

 Another type of Dual Language programs

1) A variety of academic subjects are taught in the students’ second language, with bilingual teachers who can understand students when they ask questions in their native language, but always answer in the second language

2) Native language literacy classes improve students’ writing and higher-order language skills in their first language in this type of program, the native language classes do not teach academic subjects. The second-language classes are content-based, so students learn all of their academic subjects in the second language.

Late-Exit or Developmental Bilingual Education. Education is in the child’s native language for an extended duration, accompanied by education in English. The goal is to develop literacy in the child’s native language first, and transfer these skills to the second language.

Dual Language programs are not very common in US schools although research indicates they are very effective in helping students learn English well and aiding the long-term performance of English learners in school and prevent segregation from their peers

Native English speakers also benefit by learning a second language and those programs also exist as a dual language approach. They are very popular among parents and can be only entered by lottery system (In state of Utah educational boards considering to increase their amount).

More examples of information from organizations in relation to bilingual education:

Swedish national organizations:

Swedish Ministry of Culture in the Language Act makes the public sector responsible for ensuring that the individual is given access to language in accordance to Section 14

Section 14: All residents of Sweden are to be given the opportunity to learn, develop and use Swedish. In addition persons belonging to a national minority are to be given the opportunity to learn, develop and use the minority language, and persons whose mother tongue is not Swedish are to be given the opportunity to develop and use their mother tongue.

As a result Swedish system provides an opportunities for mother tongue classes within a school system.

SPSMThe National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools. works on providing children, young people and adults with disabilities with the same opportunities for development and education that every­one in society is entitled to.

American national organizations:

NEA raises concern about segregation of ELLs and Native English speakers and recommends more actions to prevent that situation.

AFT points out the drastic change of the demographics towards more non-English speakers, who needs to be converted to ELLs effectively and prove that bilingual education programs are the way to go.

CCSSO provides research results on instruction in Bilingual Education. And gives core teaching standards:” The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.”

 International Organizations:

UNESCO Has commissioned number of publication and started up various initiative to support bilingual education and mother tong support. Such as paper “Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds”, published in 2011. It elaborates on Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years.

UNICEF supports initiatives toward bilingual intercultural education, like publishing bilingual books in Vietnam, supporting bilingual programs in rural areas of South America to encourage students for continuous education and provide more future opportunities.

OECD offers extended publication “Language learning and culture in a time of globalization” where they analyze global change of demographics which presents additional reason to support bilingual education.

GPE supports the idea that, children learn better in their mother tongue. They state that children whose primary language is not the language of instruction in school are more likely to drop out of school or fail in early grades. Though proposing to offer early education in the mother tong for better transition to the second language.

As a short conclusion I will say that it is clear that bilingual education is acute and growing subject to be addressed by educational system. Most of organizations provide research results and support idea of multi language education and importance of mother tongue and indigenous cultures. It is not very straightforward to realize their ideas in practice.


Cindy L. (2013) What I’ve learned: Bilingualism is a Gift and a Treasure

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United Nation Human rights Convention on the Rights of the Child (n.d.)

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Ball J, M.P.H., Ph.D. (2014) Children learn better in their mother tongue

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Bilingual Education Act (n.d.)

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A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 30, Children of minorities/indigenous groups (n.d.)

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Buhmann, D.,Trudell, B. (n.d.) Mother Tongue Matters.

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Chevigny, B. (2007) Bilingual – Intercultural education Aims.

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Claude Goldenberg (2013) Unlocking research English learners, periodical: american-educator

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Swedish Ministry of Culture (2009) Language Act (2009:600)

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English Language Learners (n.d.)

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CCSSO (2011) InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards, Standard #2 – Learning Differences – Bilingual Education

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Ball J, M.P.H., Ph.D. (2011) Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in the early years

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Loren R. (2008) An Introduction to the Bilingual Method of Teaching Foreign Languages

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