Bilingual Education

October 09, 1985

If the figures given in The Times article are correct, there are 206,000 children in bilingual program nationwide. The total number of children who are actually eligible for such programs, however, is between 3.4 and 6.6 million. This means that only 3% to 6% of the eligible children are exposed to bilingual education, yet critics of the programs often claim a cause-and-effect relationship between bilingual education and the dropout rates of linguistic minorities in this country.

In fact, there is no study or substantial piece of research that proves that bilingual education has not worked.

It is public education in general that is clearly failing our minority students--with the dropout rate among linguistic minorities now between 40% and 60%--and not the relative handful of bilingual programs.

Minority children fail to learn English not because they are studying in their native language, but because they are neglected in English classes.

The Supreme Court decision clearly stated that offering linguistic minority students the same English instruction given to mainstream students did not constitute an equal educational opportunity for minority students, and mandated special programs for them. This decision is still binding regardless of Secretary Bennett's statement.

The failure of the public education system adequately to educate all our children is the real issue. Bilingual education is merely a political scapegoat.


Professor of Education

UC, Santa Barbara

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