By Eduardo Landa
Bilingual education programs are growing in California schools, and the Dual Language Institute at Cal State Dominguez Hills is working to prepare current and future teachers to service that demand.
Dominguez Hills started its Dual-Language Institute two years ago in order to better prepare current and potential new bilingual teachers to effectively teach in different languages. A two-week Spanish immersion program launched in June 2016 and was taught again this past summer, according to a univeristy news release.
Academic research suggests student benefit from these programs.
“There are many educational advantages for children who are exposed to more than one language,” said Lilia Sarmiento, an associate professor of teacher education at CSUDH who is coordinator of the new institute.
A statewide proposition passed by voters in 2016 allowed bilingual public school instruction, which had been outlawed in the 1990s in California.
Participation in the program could enhance job prospects for credentialed teachers studying at CSUDH.
In 2017, for example, 16 new dual language programs will be offered in the Los Angeles Unified School District. This will impact many high schools and middle schools that lack bilingual instruction.
Many media outlets have talked about the advantages of bilingual education. The Huffington Post published an article about its “social and health” benefits.
NPR wrote that bilingual education can enhance school performance and possibly protect against cognitive decline later in life.
Despite all of this information, there are those who criticize bilingual education, preferring English-only instruction.
In 1998, a writer for The Atlantic called bilingual education an “experiment that was begun with the best humanitarian intentions but has turned out to be terribly wrongheaded.”
John Davis, dean of CSUDH’s College of Education, called criticism of such programs “zero-minded.”
“It’s the most ridiculous claim anyone could make,” Davis said.
Davis said not providing a bilingual option is a disservice to students because they will be at a “disadvantage to the rest of the world.” Students in other countries routinely study English and other languages to compete in the global workforce.
CSUDH students seem welcoming of the effort here.
Angelica Ledesma, a communications major, said she feels she has an advantage over other students because of her past bilingual education.
“Whenever a professor refers to a topic about Latin American politics or current events or even literature, it’s something I already have some knowledge on,” Ledesma said.
Seven faculty members from the departments of Teacher Education, Liberal Studies, Graduate Education, Chicano Studies and Modern Languages collaborated on the new CSUDH program, according to a news release from the college.
With this institute and recruitment strategies by Dominguez Hills, Sarmiento is optimistic that five years from now there will be numerous dual-language teachers who are not just teaching Spanish, but multiple languages.