Understanding Bilingual Education 2: Analyzing Types of Bilingual Education - Papers & Essays



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Understanding Bilingual Education 2: Analyzing Types of Bilingual Education


The previous paper briefly introduced bilingual education and the varying purposes behind using certain languages as the medium of instruction in schools. This paper will show the types of bilingual education that are recognized according to worldwide research. Weak or strong forms of bilingual education are distinguished in terms of bilingual outcomes among students. Finally, a third paper will take a pedagogical approach in showing how various school systems can be analyzed into types of bilingual education. Lesson plans will be provided, particularly to guide university students who are non-native speakers of English in analyzing realistic cases of school systems in Japan and the world for themselves.

Bilingual, education, types, biliteracy, submersion, immersion

Understanding Bilingual Education
1. Analyzing Purposes of Bilingual Education
2. Analyzing Types of Bilingual Education (This paper)
3. Analyzing Cases of Bilingual Education


Introduction to this paper

Bilingual education, strictly speaking, involves teaching in two or more languages in schools, but for the reasons discussed in the previous paper, a bewildering variety of programs can claim a connection to the use of plural languages in education. Some school systems claim to practice bilingual education because their cultural minority students know another language aside from the one used in schools, but such programs with a monolingual medium of formal instruction do not actually represent a type of bilingual education at all. Their students may be bilingual for the time being despite, not because of, monolingual school systems that are designed to assimilate minorities.


Types of Bilingual Education

With such diverse aims and resulting educational systems existing in the world, a taxonomy can only classify common patterns, but based on worldwide research sources, Baker has formulated ten types of bilingual education spanning four editions of his Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. The book was considered so important that Oka (1996) translated the whole first edition into Japanese, with its title suggesting a close connection between bilingualism and second language acquisition. The author could thus make a bilingual chart adapted from Baker (2001, p. 194) and Oka (1996, p. 183):
Types of Bilingual Education

Weak Forms of Bilingual Education *
Type of Program Typical Students Languages used
in the Classroom
Societal Aim
Language Outcome
SUBMERSION (Structured
Majority Language Assimilation Monolingualism
SUBMERSION with withdrawal classes / sheltered English Language Minority Majority Language with pull-out L2 ** lessons [held in a different location] Assimilation Monolingualism
SEGREGATIONIST Language Minority Minority Language (forced, no choice) Apartheid Monolingualism
TRANSITIONAL Language Minority Moves from Minority to Majority Language Assimilation Relative Monolingualism
MAINSTREAM with Foreign Language Teaching Language Majority Majority Language with L2/FL ** Lessons Limited Enrichment Limited Bilingualism
SEPARATIST Language Minority Minority Language (out of choice) Detachment / Autonomy Limited Bilingualism

Strong Forms of Bilingual Education
Type of Program Typical Students Languages used
in the Classroom
Societal Aim
Language Outcome
IMMERSION Language Majority Bilingual with initial emphasis on L2 ** Pluralism / Enrichment Bilingualism & Biliteracy
MAINTENANCE / HERITAGE LANGUAGE Language Minority Bilingual with emphasis on L1 ** Maintenance / Pluralism / Enrichment Bilingualism & Biliteracy
TWO-WAY / DUAL LANGUAGE Mixed Language Majority & Minority Minority & Majority Maintenance / Pluralism / Enrichment Bilingualism & Biliteracy
MAINSTREAM BILINGUAL Language Majority Two Majority Languages Maintenance / Pluralism / Enrichment Bilingualism & Biliteracy
* In some cases the weak forms of bilingual education may actually be monolingual forms of education.
** L2  = [Students'] 2nd Language, L1 = 1st [or native] language, FL = Foreign Language.


As can be seen in the extreme right column above, weak and strong forms are defined by the typical language outcomes among students, basically whether or not children become or remain bilingual. In strong forms of bilingual education, reading and writing are conducted in both languages, resulting in biliteracy. On the other hand, if classes are taught mainly in one language, it is not to the credit of the school system if some students are bilingual. Children of immigrants or minorities may simply be in transition from their endangered native language or languages to monolingualism in the dominant language of the society. Whereas majority or minority languages are defined from the viewpoint of the mainstream society, native languages (L1) and second or foreign languages (L2) should always be defined from the viewpoint of the learners involved.

In the second column from the right, the various educational or societal aims of bilingual education are seen again in keywords. The middle column demonstrates the variety of possible language use patterns in school classes, particularly the medium of instruction. The ten types of bilingual education are thus defined by the language background of the students, the languages actually used in school, the aims of decision-making authorities, and the active linguistic repertoire of students upon leaving the school.

Regarding particular types, submersion and transitional bilingual education serve the purpose of assimilating immigrant or minority children into the mainstream of society. Transitional programs start with considerable native language instruction, but it is gradually phased out. Submersion programs simply plunge students abruptly into classrooms where their native language is not seen as fit to use, and the medium of instruction is foreign to them, so they involuntarily sink or swim. Such programs are not called submersion, and they are usually believed to help students adjust to society as soon as possible so they can make a living in the future, but it tends to result in the cognitive damage of losing their native language proficiency. Then, for example in the U.S., they may still be stigmatized as limited English proficiency (LEP) speakers or of low intelligence according to standardized test results in their second language.

The second type of submersion in the chart aims to soften the shock of changing the language use of children by teaching in sheltered or simplified English, or pulling language minority students out of classes to study the majority language or medium of instruction itself. Withdrawal classes take place in some Japanese cities as well, with a small number of language minority students pulled out of each school to study Japanese as a second language (JSL) in a central location. Among the drawbacks, they miss regular class content and are further isolated from mainstream students. When Vaipae went beyond questionnaire surveys to interview immigrant families, she found that "regardless of the length of residence or school attendance in Japan, none of the case study students reached academic achievement levels on par with their Japanese classmates" (2001, p. 228).

Mainstream with Foreign Language Teaching, also a weak type of bilingual education, is the usual pattern where the mainstream language majority students study a foreign language several hours a week, which does not provide enough exposure and interaction in the L2 for students to become bilingual. Far removed from environments where it would be necessary and rewarding to use the foreign language, it is too little and started too late. Critical periods have passed where babies could distinguish all languages, children could attain native-like L2 pronunciation until about age eight, and languages could be acquired without much effort until around puberty (Glinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 1999, pp. 23-24, 138).  This is the usual predicament with English in Japan, various foreign languages taught in the U.S., and in other countries where one language is dominant.

The two other weak forms of bilingual education, Segregationist and Separatist, can appear to be similar, as they tend to be minority groups isolated from the mainstream society and using their native languages in school, insofar as children can attend. But the key difference is whether they have the choice of their medium of instruction or not. In Segregationist situations the dominant social group excludes the minority group from the option of learning in languages of wider communication such as Swahili, Arabic, English, or French. In this way the dominant group keeps the minority groups down, monopolizing limited resources and economic opportunities for social advancement. Whereas in Separatist situations the minority group is deliberately trying to distance its members from the strong influence of the mainstream society in order to protect its native language, culture, and religion. For example, some American Indians find their children turning away from their native language and values because of the strong influence of the popular culture in English. They may therefore conduct their own education in their native language apart from American influences, although young people are liable to become native speakers of English regardless, because the mainstream language can hardly be avoided.

Most of the weak forms of bilingual education were reserved for the children of immigrants and minorities except the Mainstream with Foreign Language Teaching model, which is ineffective and scarcely threatens to change the existing social order.

Turning to strong forms, a very successful model for majority language students is Immersion, usually in another language of high status, cultural prestige, and economic value. The difference between Immersion and Submersion (for minority students) is first of all a matter of choice, like diving into the deep end of a pool versus being pushed into it. The majority children or at least their parents choose an immersion bilingual education program for the utmost academic advancement, whereas submersion is a matter of circumstance, the conditions most minority families encounter in schools where the default national policy toward them is assimilation.

Immersion originated in Canada, which has a majority of French speakers in the province of Quebec. Canada has developed a national policy of bilingualism, with English and French as official languages, and multiculturalism (Shapson & D'Oyley, 1984) in consideration of indigenous Inuit and other minorities. 40% of children in Toronto schools are foreign born (Ritchie, 2006). Immersion bilingual education has been implemented widely for many years in Canada and adopted by schools in other countries (Bostwick, 2004). There are several English immersion schools in Japan, with research showing its effectiveness at Kato Gakuen in Shizuoka Prefecture (Bostwick, 2001). Conversely, there are schools in the U.S. and Australia that have Japanese immersion programs.

In immersion bilingual education the regular curriculum is taught to some extent in the target language, which can also be called Content-Based Foreign Language Teaching. But if the L2 is used less than half the time over the school year, it is not considered immersion, strictly speaking, but rather enrichment (Genesee, cited in Bostwick, 2004). When it is much less than 50%, it is Mainstream with Foreign Language Teaching, as noted earlier among the weak forms. There has not been much research or attention to bilingual education beyond childhood, but Content-Based English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teaching, for example at Osaka Jogakuin University, can be more or less than 50% in the target language. In response to the author's question at a public lecture, Fred Genesee answered that Content-Based EFL in higher education could be called "immersion-like."

If a program is called immersion, it may need to be confirmed that the curriculum meets the established criteria. There is a distinction between partial and total immersion, as the proportion of L1 and L2 used tends to change from year to year in the same bilingual school. It is further divided into early immersion when it starts in pre-school, middle immersion when it starts midway through elementary school, and late immersion when it starts around the beginning of junior high school.  It is a strict standard compared to most foreign language programs, but many studies have shown that immersion students did not lose any native level ability in L1 but rather gained academic (Bostwick, 2001) and cognitive benefits from effective bilingual education programs.

Maintenance or Heritage Language programs serve the purpose of preserving the ethnic identity, culture and language of minority group members. Immigrant communities in particular have a need to maintain communication channels with first generation immigrants and people in their country of origin. Through bilingual education their children can cope with the majority society without losing their roots. Korean (Cary, 2001) and Chinese schools in Japan are of this type. Since their students are mostly raised in Japan and hence native speakers of Japanese, with English also taught at least through secondary school, many of their graduates are bilingual or multilingual.

Two-Way or Dual Language bilingual education is similar to immersion, but schools try to gather about the same number of minority and majority language students in each class in the program, and usually team teach about half of the curriculum in the native language of the minority and half in the native language of the majority language students. This shows that both languages are equally valued, and students can learn from each other. Two examples are Seigakuin Atlanta International School (n.d.), in English and Japanese, and Vienna Bilingual Schools (Oka, 2003, pp. 51-52), in German and English.

The last strong form among the ten types of bilingual education is called Mainstream Bilingual. It includes international schools and the European Schools Movement (Baker, 2006, p. 227). It serves children like majority students or temporary residents whose native language is an international language such as English. Thus Baker's most recent edition also calls it Bilingual Education in Majority Languages. "Such schools are in societies where much of the population is already bilingual or multilingual (e.g. Singapore, Luxembourg) or where there are significant numbers of natives or expatriates wanting to become bilingual (e.g. learning through English and Japanese in Japan)" (Baker, 2006, p. 250). "Bilingual education in majority languages means that some curriculum content is learnt through a student's second language. In Europe, this is often called Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)" (p. 251).


Conclusion to this paper

This was the longest of the three papers analyzing bilingual education because of the many types that are found in the world. The types drew from the varying purposes for bilingual education outlined in the first paper. Particularly the charts of ten purposes and ten types in the first and second papers will also provide background information for the final article. The third paper adds a worksheet with ten criteria and a list of ten realistic cases in Japan and the world to classify into types of bilingual education. Putting all of these together, it will be possible to analyze the languages used in any educational system in the world in terms of bilingual education.




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Steve McCarty

Steve McCarty is a Professor at Osaka Jogakuin College and University in Japan. He is also President of the World Association for Online Education (WAOE). He was born in Boston and studied Asia at the University of Hawaii, specializing in Japan in graduate school. He teaches content-based EFL courses such as topic discussion, research paper writing, intercultural communication, language acquisition, and bilingualism. He regularly lectures to foreign officials on "Japanese People and Society" for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). He also advises Worldwide Kids English for Benesse Corporation in Tokyo. He and his Japanese wife have raised two happy sons.

See his homepage of online publications in English/Japanese
-English would link to http://waoe.org/steve/epublist.html
-Japanese would link to http://waoe.org/steve/jpublist.htm