One of my favorite images about bilingual education is in Jim Cummins’ book “Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society”. The image uses bicycle wheels to show the effects of bilingualism or bilingual education programs. As you can see, students can be successful with knowing one language. They can also be successful if they have proficiency in one language with less proficiency in a second language. However, students will be so much successful if they have proficiency in two languages! The part that I love most about the image is the last part, where the bicycle wheels are squares and it says, “Provided, of course, the people who made the wheels knew what they were doing”.
This image sums up my philosophy about bilingual education. Research has demonstrated that students in bilingual education programs can score comparatively and sometimes outperform students in English-only education, if it’s done correctly. The mere fact of teaching two languages will not automatically cause students to outperform students who are in an English program. If a bilingual program is poorly planned and poorly implemented, then we are probably bound to see poor results. As bilingual educators, we must know all of the critical components that must be in place that will make bilingual programs successful. Stay tuned for a future post that I will be uploading soon about the critical components of effective bilingual programs!