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Commentary: We all want to learn English

By Gabriel Pilonieta-Blanco
El Tiempo Hispano

We often wonder whether it is better for our children, raised in Spanish-speaking households, to learn English and leave behind their mother tongue.

This is a question that is very current, since one of the greatest school districts in the state has decided to make changes in the implementation of English as a second language for the next school year. So it would be good to clarify some points.

First, the role of school administrators is simply to implement the best policies and use wisely the available financial and human resources to achieve the best possible education for the children and youth they are educating. Parents also seek to have the best education available for their children.

Secondly, in the United States some laws have been passed, such as the Bilingual Education Act for primary and secondary school approved in 1968, which recognizes the needs of students with limited ability to speak and write English, and which has been updated several times, always with the aim of achieving a better integration of these students into the educational system.

Current legislation reflects the belief that school districts need to provide a variety of alternatives to enable their LEP students to reach proficiency in English and to be academically successful in mainstream classes.

Changes in bilingual education legislation reflect an evolution in public opinion as the United States accommodates new waves of immigrants. Though the education of students with limited English proficiency has been controversial at times, it has evolved in an effort to better meet LEP students’ needs.

On the other hand, much has been discussed about the importance of bilingual education in that it gives the child of better brain skills and this should not be neglected.

No wonder the Delaware Governor Jack Markell has made it his purpose that all young graduates from Delaware schools be bilingual, saying in his own words “The benefits will go beyond their mastery of a second language, and the advantage they will have in an increasingly global job market. Research has also shown that language study improves academic performance, builds socio-cultural awareness and enhances cognitive abilities.” And no one better than him to understand this reality, since he himself is bilingual.

In fact, research shows that children can learn to read in two languages at the same time, to the benefit of performance in both languages. Bilingually educated children are shown to read at a higher level than children educated in only language.

We believe it is prudent on the part of school administrators to implement changes that result in the improvement of our children while the parents are involved in these changes, hence we ask ourselves, What are the changes that are going to take place…

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