LatinaLista — The debate over whether or not a child is better off learning in a bilingual environment has raged before the time when American educators forced thousands of Native American school children into English-speaking boarding schools or punished Mexican-American children for speaking Spanish in school.
However, the general consensus these days is that it’s an asset for children to learn in a bilingual environment. According to a new study, it’s especially true for Mexican American children whose first language is Spanish.
David Aguayo, a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Missouri, found in his study “Culture Predicts Mexican-Americans’ College Self-Efficacy and College Performance,” that Mexican-American students who spoke in their native languages had higher grade point averages.
For advocates of bilingual education, the finding is reaffirmation of the basic principle and reason for bilingual education. Yet, Aguayo’s study goes further than just focusing on language.
“It’s a simple correlation, but living and learning within your cultural heritage is a benefit,” Aguayo is quoted in a press release. “It could be speaking the language in school, eating certain foods, or interacting with other people who share your heritage. The stress level of being in a new culture will decrease if these students have a support system in school, while they are adjusting to other cultures.”
This would seem to be true for any student of another culture thrust into a foreign educational system. The fact that Mexican American students outnumber other foreign-born students in the public school system affords an opportunity that lends itself easily for study.
However, this study seems like a no-brainer. After all, what foreign-born student wouldn’t do well with a curriculum and support system that not just valued their native language but cultural heritage?
The real study that needs to be done, and Aguayo is preparing to tackle it, is the study of why do Mexican-American students who have lived their entire lives in the United States do worse in school than Mexican-American students who are recent immigrants?
Everybody has an idea but nobody knows exactly for sure why it’s the case. It’s a study that could shed some much needed light on an issue that is already in crisis.