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Approaches to Bilingual Education

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Stephen Krashen, a professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California, outlined for those attending the state conference on bilingual education the most widely used approaches to teaching children with little or no English proficiency and offered his evaluation of each method's effectiveness.

The three approaches most commonly used by schools to educate such students, he said, are:

Submersion, total immersion, or "sink or swim." Children who are not proficient in English are placed in the same classroom as native English-speakers, in a regular curriculum without special instruction or extra help.

Submersion plus instruction in English-as-a-second-language. Children attend a separate English class for one hour daily and spend the rest of the day in regular classes with native English-speakers.

Bilingual education. Children study most subjects in their native language while developing skills in English. As English proficiency grows, they are moved from their native language to English.

While some programs move quickly to English, with no intention of maintaining the child's na-tive language, others move more slowly over a period of five to seven years, with the intention of developing proficiency in both languages. (This latter approach was favored by most speakers at the conference. They said the quick approach, which downplays the native language, is not really bilingual education, although most so-called bilingual programs use the quick approach.)

Mr. Krashen said the "sink or swim" programs are not effective by themselves. By adding instruction in English-as-a-second-language to the immersion approach, the program is strengthened "but will not be as effective as bilingual education in encouraging the acquisition of English," he said.

Mr. Krashen's presentation was based on a paper he contributed to a new 218-page guide for schools just published by the California Department of Education's Office of Bilingual-Bicultural Education. Called Schooling and Language Minority Students: A Theoretical Framework, it is available for $6.50 from the Evaluation, Dissemination, and Assessment Center, California State University at Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, Calif. 90032.--G.N.

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