Parents Attitudes Towards Bilingualism And Bilingual Education

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The number of languages spoken throughout the world is estimated to be approximately 6,000 (Grimes 1992). Although people frequently observe that a small number of languages such as Arabic, Bengali, English, French, Hindi, Malay, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish serve as important link languages or languages of wider communication around the world, these are often spoken as second, third, fourth, or later-acquired languages by their speakers (see, for example, Cheshire, 1991; Comrie, 1987; Edwards 1994). For the past decades researchers have noted that a substantial portion of the variance in student achievement is related to home environment and recent noticeable trend is the large number of parents wanting to raise bilingual children but there is no documentation on this phenomenon. Therefore, M.Lilliam, (2004) investigated the background characteristics of and practices used by parents and primary caregivers to promote bilingual proficiency in their linguistics minority children from birth to the third grade, specifically to explore the educational, personal and general characteristics of a group of parents, and the practices they used at home to develop early bilingualism in their children. The findings demonstrate that: parents can promote their own bilingualism while developing two languages in their children; there is a potential native language loss by both parents and children.

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Bilingualism also does not impact negatively on the educational or professional attainment of children while the use of two languages at homes promotes early bilingualism. It is also found out that the strategies used by parents to promote their children bilingualism are the most significant part to provide children with opportunities to become actively engaged in direct communication acts with native speakers of the target language.

Some studies also have provided the following implications for educators and administrators. Teachers should use parents as resources to promote bilingualism and adapt some useful strategies employed by parents for application in their classrooms. The interactions between native and non-native target language speakers in meaningful and relevant communication acts will assist language acquisition. Monolingual children who come from non-English natives' homes, whose parents promote bilingualism, can develop two languages in the early ages. Despite recent attacks on bilingual education, some parents continue to enroll their children in bilingual programs. Therefore, it is important to investigate why parents choose bilingual schools for their children. Several attitudinal studies (Amaral, 2001; Lee, 1999; Lindhom-Leary, 2001; Schecter, Sharken-Taboada, & Bayley, 1996; Shannon & Milian, 2002; Shin & Kim, 1998; Shin & Gribbons, 1996; Shin & Lee, 1996; Young & Tran, 1999) have been conducted involving Spanish-speaking, Korean-speaking, Hmong speaking, and Vietnamese-speaking parents.

Using the constructs of integrative and instrumental motivation to learn a second language (Gardner, 1972), she found that Hispanic English-speaking parents had both types of motivation for having their children in DLE programs. Their identification with instrumental motivation resulted from their desire to have their children become bilingual and therefore have increased opportunities for education and careers in the future. Their integrative motivation is to have their children speak Spanish in order to integrate socially with Spanish speakers. She also found that Hispanic parents, regardless of language dominance, primarily identified with integrative motivation because of their desire to have their children acquire or maintain their heritage language. The English-speaking Hispanic parents chose the dual language programs for their children so that they could integrate into a culture that had been inaccessible, at least linguistically, to them. The parents that were surveyed were all satisfied with the program and with their children's progress in their second language that includes, of course, immigrant parents whose children were learning English.

In general, Krashen (1996) believes that the conflicting views toward bilingual education can be explained in the following manner. Opposition to bilingual education is most pronounced when an extreme view (only native language instruction) of bilingual education is presented. When subjects are asked about using both languages or are asked about bilingual education in general, responses are much more positive. Shin and Lee (1996) concluded that there was considerable support for the underlying principles of bilingual education involving parents from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds (the Korean parents tended to have higher education and income levels; Hispanics tended to live in the United States longer). Santos (1985) found that Latino parents with children in bilingual education had stronger, more positive attitudes toward bilingual education than Vietnamese parents did. Still, Vietnamese were favorable to bilingual education.

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Young & Tran, 1999 have conducted a research where One hundred and six Vietnamese parents were given a questionnaire to assess their attitudes toward bilingual education and its underlying principles. The majority of parents preferred that their children be enrolled in a classroom where Vietnamese was part of the curriculum regardless of English proficiency. Parents believed that bilingual education allows children to keep up in subject matter while acquiring English, that developing literacy in Vietnamese would facilitate their English acquisition, that learning subject matter first in the primary language would make the subject matter more understandable in English, that bilingualism had practical, career, and cognitive related advantages, and that it was necessary to maintain language and culture.

Amaral (2001) where he has investigated parents' decisions about bilingual program models in California, one city on the border of Mexico. The study found that the longer the parents are in the United States, the more inclined they are to place their children in programs with little or no English support. Also, parents tended to place their children in settings that mirrored the language patterns used in the home. In addition, the higher the parent's level of education, the more likely they were to place their children in bilingual programs where home language support was available.

In a comprehensive study of Dual Language Education programs, Kathryn Lindholm-Leary (2001) compared student outcomes of 18 schools on a variety of academic and programmatic variables. One other aspect of the programs she examined was parent involvement, and she surveyed some parents to discern their attitudes and the reasons they chose dual language programs for their children. She found that parent involvement of minority parents was consistently high in the Dual Language Education programs as compared with the transitional bilingual education programs. Cummins (2001) has suggested that minority parent involvement of Spanish-speaking parents increases as the number of Spanish speaking teachers increases, which is the case in Dual Language Education programs as opposed to Transitional Bilingual Education programs. In responses to why parents placed their children in DLE programs, Lindhom-Leary found that all parents wanted their children to become bilingual.

In another study by Shannon & Milian, (2002) who surveyed the attitudes of parents whose children are enrolled in dual language programs in Colorado. Furthermore, they describe why these parents were motivated to participate in a survey. The results of the survey clearly indicate that both English- and Spanish-speaking parents freely choose these bilingual programs for their children, understand the model of dual language, and believe them to be effective. Although there were some differences between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parents' responses, particularly to open-ended questions, overall the survey findings dramatically counter bilingual opponents' claims that parents, particularly immigrant parents, do not want bilingual education for their children or that bilingual programs are forced upon them.

Lao (2004) has surveyed 86 Chinese parents who enrolled their children in a Chinese-English bilingual preschool in San Francisco. The participants were asked their opinions on bilingual education, the reasons for sending their children to a Chinese-English bilingual school, their attitudes toward bilingual education, their use of Chinese and English, and their expectations for their children and the language environment at home. It was found that parents strongly support Chinese-English bilingual education and understood the purpose and underlying principles of bilingual education. The results suggest that both English dominant and Chinese-dominant parents are very supportive of developing bilingualism in their children. The implications of this study for community Chinese heritage language programs and for Chinese-English bilingual schools are that schools need to work in concert with parents to establish more effective home- school partnerships to meet the different language needs and expectations of the parents and students, and to provide students with the necessary language and literacy experiences in a meaningful way.

Conclusion

It is obviously noted from the above studies that they Provide evidence for the strong support parents have for dual language programs. They understand the purpose of these programs, feel that it was their choice to select these programs, believe that it is important to learn a second language and that their child is learning a second language in the dual language program of their choice, and that these programs are effective in teaching a second language. Parents view these programs to be academically sound, an innovative vehicle for promoting communication and respect among children from different cultures, and effective in teaching a second language. Indeed, parents view these programs as an excellent educational opportunity for their children and expressed their desire for the expansion of bilingual education. Furthermore, the studies strongly recommend the need to develop a process of societal participation and parental consultation in educational planning and language policy issues, prior to the implementation of such reforms through the education process.

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