This is an interesting, whether you are dealing with it in Texas or Taiwan. What is the best policy for language instruction in school? Texas' situation is entirely different from Taiwan's, so it's also fun to look at.
Here's some of the article from the Houston Chronicle, which they lifted from the San Antonio Express-News.
AUSTIN — Here's the plan: Put young children who struggle with English in a classroom with English-speaking students and teach in two languages.
Soon, both groups of children will become bilingual and bi-literate with the youngsters helping each other develop two languages, say supporters of the dual language immersion program.
But others are balking at the experiment that Texas lawmakers approved this spring, contending it's turning classrooms into laboratories.
With House Bill 2814, legislators created a six-year pilot program that will test a dual language plan in up to 10 Texas public school districts and 30 campuses.
English was not the first language for more than 731,000 children attending Texas public schools last year.
Those children, identified as "limited English proficient," spoke hundreds of foreign languages, although Spanish was spoken by 92 percent.
"We know that dual language works, but we have failed to articulate the benefits of placing native English speakers in dual language programs," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. "They will learn Spanish or some other language, becoming bilingual and bi-literate. When they are little, you can do that."
Learning multiple languages should always be encouraged, said Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, although she opposes the pilot project approach.
"I think the purpose behind this is to help bring up to speed Spanish-speaking kids and turning other kids into guinea pigs," she said.
Seven of her own nine grandchildren are younger than 6, she said: "They are grandchildren, not grand-guinea pigs."
Children in her suburban school district northwest of Houston speak more than 70 languages, Riddle said.
"I don't care what they are speaking," she said. "They are in America. They need to master the English language. This is not a dual-language country. We speak English in this country."
On the national stage"The bottom line of life is that we don't all speak the same language," House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said, acknowledging that national debate over immigration has triggered deep-seated antagonism.
The Senate voted 28-2 for the pilot project, while the House approved it 106-34. No Democrat opposed the bill.
Riddle said she fears the project will dilute the need to master English.
"I think we are worshipping at the feet of diversity," Riddle said. "There's nothing wrong with diversity, but to minimize English as the primary language of this nation is a mistake, and I think it's a mistake for our kids. Kids need to master the English language, period."
The issue should not focus on immigration because the law requires Texas to educate all children living here, said Jesse Romero, a San Antonio-based legislative consultant for the Texas Association For Bilingual Education.
"If they are going to be educated, let's do it the right way," Romero said. "If we don't educate the children, we're not going to have a viable work force, and if we don't have a viable and educated work force, we're not going to be attractive to the economic development that our state leaders continue to say that Texas is all about."
Eissler said opponents of his bill believe immigrants need to bend to us rather than us to them.
But he views the issue in terms of education.
"The more you know, the better off you are is my theory of life. The more we can teach our kids, the better off we're going to be," Eissler said. "The younger you are, the more adept you are in learning another language, so why do we wait to high school to teach language?"
A growing problemPrevious studies have shown that it costs about 40 percent more to educate limited English students, although the state funds school districts by an extra 10 percent to teach them.
Only 8 percent of limited English proficient 10th-graders passed all parts of the state's assessment test in the 2005-06 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency, and the number of limited English proficient students is increasing. While about 16 percent of all public school children last year were limited-English proficient, more than one-fourth of first-graders struggled with English.
In the state's largest urban school districts — Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth — more than 40 percent of first-graders were limited-English proficient.
"These school districts do represent a growing statewide trend, and it does pose a significant challenge to our educators," Van de Putte said. "The reality is that the numbers are increasing. We can wring our hands and say the federal government needs to take care of this. But that doesn't help us with outcomes."
One success storyThe success of dual language immersion programs has been evident in Cedar Brook Elementary in the Spring Branch school district.
Preliminary results show the school will be ranked exemplary following two years of recognized ratings after a federal grant allowing Cedar Brook to test a dual language program.
About half the school's children are limited English proficient, said Catherine Robinson, the former principal at Cedar Brook.
"Most Texans probably are not aware of the challenges facing educators with large numbers of limited English proficient students," she said.
They must learn academic content in addition to a new language.
"When students are acquiring and differentiating a language — when the language is a language other than English — then the challenge of learning in an academically rigorous setting in English is substantial for these students," said Robinson, who is now executive director of Spring Branch's Teaching and Learning program, which develops curriculum and instruction for struggling students.