The Pros And Cons Of Bilingual Education Education Essay

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The present study will look at the pros and cons of bilingual education and its implications in the English education system of Mongolia along with the various types of bilingual education systems and the definition of each. Then it will go on to look at the English education system of Mongolia and why it needs to make use of the bilingual education system. Globalization, professional success, and educational success are the reasons why Mongolia needs to learn English through the bilingual education system. By training teacher more professionally and providing students with enough books, Mongolia will be able to succeed in making English its second language.

1.1 Aim of Study

As the number of English learners grows around the world, so does the number of various schools and institutions that offer English education. Many of these institutions are aimed at teaching English to non-native English speakers and thus, are taught by other non-native English speakers using both their native language and English as a method of instruction. As a future English teacher coming from a non-English speaking country myself, I felt that it was necessary to find out how this form of bilingual education can be used effectively to teach English to foreigners. Moreover, not only for my own benefit, this study can also help other future English teachers especially since the number of foreigners wanting to learn English is growing rapidly. The various advantages and disadvantages of bilingual education will be studied throughout this paper, as well as my own rationale behind why bilingual education is not only important, but also necessary in the educational system of Mongolia. By looking at bilingual education and its pros and cons, this information can be used to further facilitate the already growing popularity of English education in Mongolia. Because of the large demand of English learners, it is imminent that a better educational system be provided to fit the need of prospective students.

1.2 Definition of Bilingual Education

Before going on to the pros and cons of bilingual education, there should be a clear definition of what bilingual education is and what its implications are. The term bilingual education is used when both the student's native and target language are used for instruction. When it was first introduced in the United States, bilingual education was used for students of limited English proficiency to help them transition into the only-English speaking community by teaching them the basic school subjects in their native language so as to ensure that the students know the material fully and are able to catch up to their classmates in the mainstream English classrooms (Nieto, 2009). Students may also be pulled out of the classes to be given extra instruction in their own language to aid in their understanding while they learn English. By using the students' native language to teach English, the students are receiving dual language instruction which can have either positive or negative effects on their language acquisition.

1.3 History of Bilingual Education

The United States has always been a multi-language country even before it officially became a nation. The Native Americans had their own languages and the various people around the world coming to colonize America also brought their own languages and cultures. However, these immigrants coming to America were encouraged to speak English only, having to abandon their own language and culture. These immigrant students began to feel ashamed of their own communities and started to conform to the mainstream English-speaking people, losing their identity as minorities. Then in 1906, the Nationality Act in Texas designated English as the official language of instruction and required that all immigrants speak English to be eligible for education (Nieto, 2009). However, with the greater increase of immigrants coming in to America after the World War II, bilingual education became more and more popular. In 1967, the U.S. passed a bill, the Bilingual Educational Act, which stated that many children were not able to understand their teachers' instructions in English and therefore started the funding for bilingual education programs throughout the country. This Bilingual Educational Act characterizes bilingual education as one that allows students to advance through their educational careers more successfully with the help of instruction in their native language, whereas ESL programs were considered insufficient (Stewner-Manzanares, n.d., cited in Pena, 2002, p. 6). Although the government never explicitly required there to be a bilingual educational program, the Civil Rights Act for people of all race and nation and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act prompted the educational system of the United States to provide limited English proficiency (LEP) students with comprehensible instruction (Nieto, 2009). Of course, there has been and still are many anti-bilingualism groups since that time and this study goes on to study what the reasoning is behind these groups and also what the supporters of bilingual education are saying.


The term bilingual education can be used to classify several different types of programs such as: the total immersion program, English as a Second Language (ESL)/sheltered immersion programs, transitional bilingual education, maintenance bilingual education, and dual language programs. Knowing the differences between each of these programs will aid in understanding the idea of bilingual education better.

2.1 Total Immersion Program

Total immersion programs put LEP students into classrooms in which the language of instruction is only English and all the students are native English speakers (Deveau & Bang, 2004, p. 208). One hundred percent of the classes are carried out in English and the LEP students receive no particular help from a teacher of the same native language. The theory behind this method is that the more exposure to the target language you get, the quicker you will learn that language. Through this method, students are supposed to learn the second language in a natural way just as they learned their native language by being surrounded by people who speak that language.

2.2 English as a Second Language (ESL)/Sheltered Immersion

Commonly known as ESL, these programs provide separate instruction to students who are having difficulty learning the content material of the class because of their limited English proficiency. They may be pulled out of their mainstream classrooms to be given extra help by a trained ESL teacher with materials that are structured to fit the language levels of the students. Through this form of education, the students are able to develop their language skills without falling behind their classmates in the school curriculum.

2.3 Transitional Bilingual Education

Transitional bilingual education, or early-exit bilingual education, is a program which provides students with instruction in their native language and allows them to transition into the target language classroom within just two to four years, hence the term early-exit. In this program, the student's native language is used as the medium through which English is learned and is therefore a way to complement their learning, the main goal of classroom instruction being fluency in the L2 (Baker, 1988, p. 46).

2.4 Maintenance Bilingual Education

Also called late-exit bilingual education, maintenance bilingual education is similar to transitional bilingual education, except that this program goes on for a longer period of time - over six years. Although the students may achieve fluency in English before this period is over, he or she remains in this program. In this method, the teacher teaches the students in their native language, ensuring that the students are academically proficient in their native languages so that they can study successfully in the target language. The late-exit model showed the most academic progress in the students as Crawford (1999) points out that their achievement accelerated over time - almost catching up with that of their English-speaking peers (para. 21).

2.5 Dual-Language Immersion

In this program, the class consists of two groups of students. One group of students are the English language learners (ELLs) speaking the same native language and the other group is the native English speaking students. The two groups study side by side and the teacher provides instruction in both languages so that the students are able to learn both languages fluently. This aids the students in becoming both academically and linguistically proficient in both languages. Also, this form of immersion can promote cross-cultural understanding between the two different groups (Serrano & Howard, 2007, p. 152). Through dual-language immersion, students can learn to appreciate each other's differences and help in breaking down barriers that may occur between groups from diverse backgrounds.


Those opposed to bilingual education present several reasons to why bilingual education is not efficient in language learning. Those reasons are studied in this section before going on to the supporting grounds for bilingual education along with evidence refuting these reasons.

3.1 Inefficiency

3.1.1 Costs

In the United States, the government is spending over $12 billion for the funding of education for limited-English students, over half of that amount being spent on bilingual education programs ("The Social Contract," 1994) and those opposed to bilingual education are saying that it is costing too much compared to the outcome of only a handful of LEP students being able to score high enough on tests to be considered fluent English speakers. However, studies have shown that ESL programs where students are pulled out of the classroom for extra instruction cost more ($1,198 per year) than bilingual programs ($175-$214 per year) (Crawford, 1998). The reason is because "pullout" programs require extra teachers and instructional material whereas in-class approaches do not (Chambers & Parrish, 1992, cited in Crawford, 1998, para. 11). Therefore, it is unreasonable to say that bilingual education is costing too much. Rather, there should be some actions to enhance the funding for bilingual education.

3.1.2 Uncertified Educators

There are very few teachers in the bilingual classroom who are fully certified and proficient in both the students' native and target language. (Iver, n.d., para. 6) Those in support of bilingual education say that there is not enough funding in terms of providing schools with trained teachers who are able to teach in dual languages and if these needs were met, there would be much improvement in this area and LEP students will receive the proper education that they need in order to study on the same level as their native-English speaking peers. (Iver, n.d., para. 8) This is very important because, as many teachers will agree, it takes much more effort to teach LEP students who also do not understand the teacher's native language than to teach students who speak the same native language as the teacher.

3.1.3 Not Time Efficient

Not only in terms of costs and insufficient staff, opponents of bilingual education are saying that it is not time efficient because it takes too long for LEP students to gain proficiency in English through the bilingual education program because those students tend to want to fall back on their native language, refusing to learn English and assimilate into the mainstream. This causes segregation in the schools and results in social isolation and high drop-out rates. Drop-out rates have reduced in schools with all-English methods of instruction; however, schools that employ bilingual methods have not seen any reduction in drop-out rates. Most people feel that a drop-out rate of 35% does not justify the high costs involved in bilingual education (Iver, n.d., para. 5). As a result, many opposing groups think that it is best to teach LEP students English in the shortest time possible. The argument against this is that although children seem to master general linguistic skills more quickly, it is estimated that students need between four to six years to become academically proficient in a second language (Nieto, 2009, p. 66). Therefore, it is only natural for students to take a long time before becoming proficient enough in English to be able to enter the mainstream classroom without having difficulty in the other academic subjects. Opponents of bilingual education also believe that bilingual education programs cause students to fall behind their peers in all-English programs in terms of language proficiency. Nevertheless, studies show that not only do these LEP students in bilingual programs catch up, but they also often surpass their peers both academically and linguistically, scoring higher on tests. The longer students spend in bilingual programs, the better they perform in academics and in language (Zelasko, n.d.). Moreover, Cummins (1992) mentions a study that showed that students studying in the immersion program did not necessarily enter the mainstream classroom quicker than those in the early-exit program which also points to the fact that immersion programs are neither cost efficient nor time efficient (p. 97).

3.2 Better Alternative to Bilingual Education

One of the alternatives to bilingual education that opponents are posing is the total immersion method. Commonly called the "sink or swim" method, supporters of the total immersion method argue for a rapid placement into the mainstream classroom (Jong, 2006, p. 23). They also believe that students will learn English much more quickly since they are exposed to more English. However, studies show that it is not the quantity of exposure that is important, it is the quality. In order for education to succeed, the language input must be comprehensible to the student (Krashen, 1996, cited in Crawford, 1998, para. 4). Therefore, in order to make the input comprehensible, the language of instruction must be that of the students' native language, English being the language to be learned, not the language to learn with.

3.3 Loss of a Dominant Language

Another reason that some people oppose bilingual education is because they believe that it causes the English language to no longer be a dominant language of the United States. Promoting bilingualism among the immigrants could put the English at a secondary position and make the immigrants no longer feel the need to learn it. On the contrary, there have been languages other than English being taught in America through bilingual and non-English programs since the 19th century, especially because of the Native Americans. Even with the influx of foreign languages coming in from all over the world, English maintained its position as a dominant language in the U.S., even to the point of becoming a global language. (Crawford, 1998)


4.1 Comprehensible Input

Krashen's theory of comprehensible input is one of the biggest supporting factors for bilingual education. The theory of comprehensible input (i + 1) states that the new information to be learned by a person must be understandable in order to be successfully acquired. "It is argued by Krashen that humans acquire the rules of language in a predictable order and move from a current level, i, to the next level, i + 1, by understanding input i + 1." (Lee, 2004, p. 3) In terms of bilingual education, this theory is divided into two parts, knowledge and literacy. In a study done by Shin (Shin, 1994, Shin & Gribbons, 1996, cited in Krashen, 1997), many respondents agree with the idea that the first language is helpful in providing background knowledge, many agree that literacy transfers across languages, and most support the principles underlying bilingual education.

4.1.1 Knowledge

When a student learns new information in a language that he does not understand, he will not be receiving any comprehensible input. However, if the teacher provides instruction in the student's native language, it gives the student knowledge. This knowledge helps make the English much more comprehensible. For example, an LEP student who has learned history in his native language will understand history taught in an English classroom because he will have the background knowledge to help him. Further, this knowledge that he has will help the student in learning more history and acquiring more English. (Krashen, 2001, para. 4, 5)

4.1.2 Literacy

Developing literacy in the first language will aid in the student's developing literacy in another language. "It is easier to learn to read in a language you understand; once you can read in one language, this knowledge transfers rapidly to any other language you learn to read. Once you can read, you can read." (Krashen, 2001, para. 6) With the knowledge obtained from previous learning in L1, the student will be able to connect that context with what he is currently learning in L2. In terms of reading, Koda (1996) states that the words and the global knowledge of a text that a reader encounters are "bi-directional" in that the two factors interact with each other and help the reader understand the text more fully (Cited in Avalos, 2003, p. 174). Therefore, the skills learned in the first language operate as a basic foundation that aids the acquisition of the second language. In addition, studies have reported that a student's level of literacy in his first language predicts his potential to achieve that level of literacy in a second language (Slavin & Cheung, 2005, cited in Nieto,2009, p. 66).

4.2 Higher Academic Achievement

People who are opposed of bilingual education and support the total immersion program use the term "time on task" to mean that LEP students will learn English faster if they do not have to go through the menial learning process and rather, are allowed to learn naturally by being surrounded by the language (Imhoff, 1990, cited in Cummins, 1992, p. 93). Nevertheless, along with Krashen's theory of comprehensible input stated above, if students are provided with a firm education in their native language, they will be able to gain higher academic achievement in a second language. Therefore, if students' native language helps in their academics, this will further help them in obtaining higher English proficiency. Since they are able to understand what they are learning in English, this will prompt them to study further, resulting in higher academic achievement. Cummins (1992) points out that studies show the association of cognitive advantages and educational benefits for bilingual students (p. 94-95). A study comparing the students in immersion programs, early-exit programs, and late-exit programs showed that the students in the late-exit programs, who received instruction in their native language for at least 40 per cent of the time did better academically than their peers in the mainstream classrooms despite that fact that these students received less instruction in English than the students in the other groups and more of their families came from low-income backgrounds. (Cummins, 1992, p. 97)

4.3 Confidence

Although this may be considered a subjective factor to use as supporting evidence, confidence can be seen as another reason why bilingual education is a positive asset to the educational system. Taking into account all the positive factors of bilingual education stated above, it can be said that this system gives an extra boost of self-confidence to students participating in that program. Bilingual education can have a positive effect on a student's confidence and self-esteem because it stresses the importance of a student's background knowledge and allows the student to use this knowledge by integrating it into their daily learning (Crawford, 1989, 2004, Cummins, 1984, 2000, & Padilla, 1991, cited in Nieto, 2009, p. 68). One of the reasons that some students are unable to attain full fluency in a second language is because they are afraid to make mistakes which might result in embarrassing themselves and being laughed at by their peers. On the other hand, a self-confident, secure person will be able to learn language more successfully ("Second Language Acquisition", 2007, p. 75). As studies have revealed, bilingual education results in a higher English proficiency as well as higher academic achievement among LEP students than students in an English-only program. This is a strong factor in giving confidence to LEP students as they soon catch up to their English speaking peers both academically and linguistically and therefore do not have to feel that they are inferior to their friends. Learning a second language without falling behind the majority student population on academics, rather, excelling above the norms can only have positive effects on a students' confidence as he goes through that long process.

Moreover, bilingual education promotes bilingualism and biliteracy which can be seen as a very strong asset in this time of globalization. Being able to speak more than one language is looked upon by many with a desire to achieve. Bilingualism gives a person a wider perspective into the usage of language and provides that person with a variety of terms and an ample collection of vocabulary to choose from in his conversation, especially with another bilingual. This advantage can give students confidence and pride in themselves as one student wrote that he is proud to know two languages (Soto, 2002, p. 603).


There are many countries other than the U.S. that have adopted the system of bilingual education and have had much success. Some of these countries are Canada, Singapore, and Sweden. Studying how these countries have adopted bilingual education can help in incorporating it into the educational system of Mongolia.

5.1 Canada

Canada has two official languages, English and French. Therefore, Canada has been using the bilingual education model to educate their children to be fluent in both languages. Many Canadian schools use either the late or partial immersion program, allowing students to learn the L2 through a natural process. Studies done in Canadian schools also prove that students in the bilingual program did not fall behind their monolingual peers, scoring higher on academic achievement tests. It is shown that the French language skills of those who received instruction through the immersion programs were superior to those of students who received instruction through the traditional method for a set time period each day (Knell, E., Haiyan, Q., Miao, P., Yanping, C., Siegel, L., Lin, Z., & Wei, Z., 2007, p. 397).

5.2 Singapore

English being the official language, Singapore has been using English as the primary language of instruction in schools since 1987 (Pakir, 1993, cited in Knell et al., 2007, p. 397). Although Chinese is used in the home, English is used as the main language even between the ethnic groups, as well as in business and technology (Knell et al, 2007, p. 397). The children in Singapore go through the total immersion program since kindergarten. This has been considered a great success in Singapore and it is possible that the English immersion programs contributed greatly to the academic success in other subjects taught in English for students in Singapore (Knell et al., 2007, p. 397).

5.3 Sweden

Sweden has been giving content-based learning to students through the medium of English. With programs such as CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), students are taught the basic subjects such as history and art through a foreign language, namely English. Unless it is an international school, Swedish schools teach their subjects less than 50 per cent of the time and subjects cannot be taught solely in English. Code switching is common in these schools and both teachers and students use English and Swedish freely. (Munklinde, 2008)


Having laid the foundations for the definitions and implications of bilingual education, it is time to look at how this system can be brought into play in the educational systems of Mongolia and why it is necessary for Mongolia to implement bilingual education in order to have a voice in the global market of today's world.

6.1 History and Current Status of Language Education in Mongolia

6.1.1 History

When Genghis Khan and his sons died after having reigned over the vast Mongolian empire, it began to fall apart and was taken over by the Qing in 1911. However, only a decade later in 1921, the Russians took over and Mongolia was under communist rule until 1990 when it gained independence with a peaceful democratic revolution (Cohen, n.d.). Under Russian rule, Russian had been the primary language of use all over the country. The Russian language was held in such high esteem that being able to use and understand the Russian language was considered as being equivalent with being educated (Namsrai, 2004, cited in Cohen, 2005, p. 204). The Russian language was used in every aspect of the Mongolian life - even the Mongolian traditional script was replaced with the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. More and more students began to study the Russian language, resulting in more and more teachers being trained to teach Russian. The Mongolian's fluency and usage of Russian was so widespread that it sometimes surpassed their proficiency in their own native Mongolian (Cohen, 2005, p. 205-206).

With the collapse of the Russian hold on Mongolia in 1990, Mongolians began to realize that the Russian language was not as useful or powerful as they had thought and that English was the dominant language in the outside world. "The linguistic map of the world had shifted significantly during the seventy years of Mongolia's isolation, and its people were only now coming to realize that English, not Russian, had become the preeminent international language." (Cohen, n.d., p. 6-7) The need for English teachers became very urgent; however, English was not studied in Mongolia before 1990 and there were less than a dozen English teachers that were qualified (Ibid, cited in Cohen, n.d.). As a result, the Mongolian government began to retrain the Russian language teachers to be able to teach English.

6.1.2 Current Status

English spread through Mongolia very quickly and it soon became the required language for businessmen and other professionals. Students who are studying English now study primarily to be able to study abroad or find a job. Having been under great economic crisis and near starvation after the democratic revolution, English became the most important skill in getting employment and an individual's greatest asset in obtaining a job in an English-speaking country (Cohen, 2005, p. 208).

Mongolians study English for various reasons, mostly instrumental, regulative, interpersonal, and imaginative (Cohen, 2005). The instrumental reasons are mainly for learning English for the purpose of studying. The interpersonal reasons for studying English come with notions of "power relationships" (Cohen, 2005, p. 210) where speaking English with other foreigners can put them on the same level, whereas using a translator can mean that one person is inferior to the other. Also, more Mongolians are speaking English in their workplaces because being able to speak English brings with it the connotation of being more international and modern. (Cohen, 2005, p. 211)

Compared to the growing popularity of English, Mongolia still lacks the sufficient funds and resources to teach English on a more sophisticated level. When Mongolia was under Russian domination, there were many teachers that were given special training in the Russian language for at least 7-10 years and were even sent to Russia to study. (Cohen, n.d., p. 11) However, since its liberation, Mongolia currently is not financially well off enough to be able to provide funds for training English teachers as they had trained the Russian teachers. There is also a lack of textbooks for students learning English. Books for secondary school students were completed only recently in the year 2000 and is currently being revised. Overall, the English education system of Mongolia is still very meager and it will take some time before it can reach the point of offering students with the same level of sophisticated education as other countries around the world.

6.2 Need for Bilingual Education in Mongolia

Taking Krashen's theory of comprehensible input (i + 1) into account, it can be said that Mongolians have a well-laid foundation of language skills (i). The Mongolian public education system is established fairly well and with the adoption of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, there is a high literacy rate of 99% (Khamsi & Stolpe, 2004, cited in Cohen, n.d.). However, the vast differences between the Mongolian and English language can be a hindrance in the + 1. If Mongolian students are taught by a native English-speaking teacher, their understanding will be very limited and they will not receive the proper input necessary for acquiring a second language. Lee (2004) argues that comprehensible input is crucial because it allows the student to look at the structure because they would have already understood the message (p. 6). Although Krashen's comprehensible input theory may be reasonable in an ESL setting such as America where the native language of the LEP students is mostly Spanish, a language with a very similar structure to that of English, it may not be so efficient in an EFL setting, such as Mongolia. Consequently, bilingual education would be more efficient in teaching Mongolians the English language rather than using a total immersion program which does not consider the students' native language and forces the students to learn.

As the English education system of Mongolia continues to grow, there are a few schools in Mongolia that have opted for the total immersion program, teaching students all the subjects using only English. The philosophy of these schools is the same as any other schools that make use of the total immersion program - that the more language input a student receives, the more proficient in that language he will become. However, as stated many times above, this is not entirely true. Quantity of language input does not necessarily guarantee language proficiency. Also, there are some other factors to be considered when looking at the case of schools in Mongolia with the total immersion programs. For example, in the American School of Ulaanbaatar the majority of the students are Mongolians who speak fluent English. Most of these students are either born in or have lived in other English-speaking countries and so it is only natural that they are fluent in English - this is not the case of the students in most other schools in Mongolia. Therefore, it is difficult to say that the immersion program of that certain school provided students with the education to be able to speak fluent English and this specific case is not relevant to the rest of the country. Although a total immersion program can be used, other methods, such as maintenance or transitional bilingual education, or dual-language immersion programs would be a better alternative in the Mongolian context.

Total immersion programs cost a lot of money because they need to bring native English-speaking teachers from foreign countries. In order to accommodate the needs of these foreign teachers, the school will need to pay them a great deal of money. This results in the tuition fee going up to more than $10,000 a year. Although the elite class of Mongolia will be able to send their children to these schools as they do in the American School of Ulaanbaatar, the majority of the people in Mongolia will not be able to afford the tuition. Therefore, there needs to be a system where Mongolian teachers can teach English to the Mongolian students at a price that everyone can afford.

Another reason that a bilingual education is necessary is the vast difference between the Mongolian and English language, especially in terms of grammar and structure. Unlike the select few who have had the privilege of being able to study abroad during their childhood years, most of the other Mongolian students will be learning English for the first time as they start school. If a native English teacher is teaching in their classroom, they will not be able to understand anything the teacher says except for a few basic words. When a student is bombarded with information that they do not understand, it is more than likely that he will cease to listen altogether and not learn anything. Even if the student understands, there will be limitations as the native teacher attempts to explain the complicated structure of the English language in a language that the student barely knows. Therefore, it is better for a Mongolian teacher, who has already gone through the experience of learning English and will understand what the students are going through, to teach those students, explaining concepts in their native language in order to ensure a much deeper understanding of the instruction.

6.2.1 Globalization

With the development of transportation and IT technology, the world is becoming smaller as more people are able to travel to and from one end of the world to the other within a day and all the information of the world is available right at your fingertips through the use of the Internet. As a traditionally nomadic country and as a country which has conquered a vast area of the world through the reign of Genghis Khan, Mongolians have been in contact with different languages for a long time. Therefore, adopting English as a second language in Mongolia will not be difficult and may come as a very natural phenomenon.

With the era of globalization, English has become the universal language used and known by everyone around the world. The language used by the world's mass media (movies, songs, etc.) is usually English as well as the language in the majority of the Internet cites. As Mongolia begins to step into the global market, it is only natural that it begins to learn English if it wants to become a part of it.

6.2.2 Professional Success

America being the greatest super power in today's economy, it has become crucial to learn English if a country wants to be in rapport with America. Moreover, other mega companies around the world are using English as the main language of communication. English has become such a widespread language that almost every country in the world has some sort of English education program. Brecht and Rivers (2000) comments that with the development of globalization, worldwide democratization, and the claim of the United States to be the world's superpower - a claim that gives it an immense role and major responsibilities - the need for greater foreign language proficiency has become critical (cited in Vance, 2004, p. 463). Because Mongolian is only spoken by eight million people in the world (Kullman & Tserenpil, 1996, cited in Cohen, 2005, p. 203), Mongolian people need to learn and speak English in order to communicate with other countries and perform business with them. As a matter of fact, many companies in Mongolia use English as their common mode of communication where employees use English not only with their foreign colleagues, but with their fellow Mongolian colleagues as well with more than 80% of them speaking English either all the time or most of the time. However, many of the participants in this survey noted that it was difficult to use English all the time because their English proficiency was very limited many people are not able to speak or understand the language (Cohen, 2005). Many foreign companies are investing in and making business transactions with companies in Mongolia, therefore, it is imperative that Mongolians learn English in order to develop the country and bring stability to the economy.

6.2.3 Educational Success

As stated above, students in the bilingual program scored the same or even higher on academic tests than the students in monolingual classes. Nieto (2009) says that research has sufficiently stressed the benefits, both psychological and educational, for students to be placed in classrooms where they are able to develop their skills in content subjects taught in their native languages and, at the same time, develop their knowledge of a second language. Not only does such an approach ease the transition between one language and another without having students lose ground on content subjects, but it also strengthens the students' cognitive skills (p. 68). Similar to the cases in the United States and other places around the world, if Mongolia uses the bilingual education system, the students can improve not only their English proficiency, but their academic skills as well.

6.3 How to Improve Mongolia's English Education System

The biggest reason why schools in Mongolia or in any other school without sufficient funds for bilingual education are having trouble teaching students English is that they do not have enough trained teachers or the appropriate books. Cohen (n.d.) states that despite the efforts of the Mongolian government, the lack of funds and expertise hindered the continued development of the country's fledgling policies about English education (p. 9).

First of all, it is very important for EFL teachers to be properly trained in order for the student to be successful in learning the language. Many teachers in Mongolia have not had the proper training to become adept English teachers; therefore, Mongolia needs to work harder in providing better training to these teachers. Granted, Mongolia's economy is still in the developing stages and it is virtually impossible for the government to give sufficient funds in this field; however, Cohen (n.d.) comments on surveys which indicate how crucial it is for English teachers across the country to receive additional development (p. 11). This is true not only in terms of the qualification of the teachers, but also in number, as there will continue to be an increase in demand for more English teachers as Mongolia continues to develop. By becoming better trained, the teachers themselves need to be fluent in both Mongolian and English in order to teach their students to be fluent in English. If teachers are properly trained, they will be able to address the specific areas in which the students are having difficulties since the teachers themselves will have had these troubles while learning English and will be able to relate to the students' problems. Furthermore, non-bilingual teachers who will also play a part in educating these students will need to understand that they play an important role as enrichment teachers (Pena, 2002, p. 12).

In addition to better training for teachers, there needs to be more funding to provide students with books suited to their needs. Krashen (1997) mentions that the biggest problem in bilingual education, is the absence of books in both the first and second languages of the students (para. 17). Many schools in Mongolia do not have books for the students. They simply take notes on what the teacher tells them. However, with a better supply of books, students will naturally be able to improve their learning and develop their cognitive skills. Through these books, the teachers will be able to properly assess the students' abilities and adjust the curriculum according to the students' levels and give more appropriate instruction to the students.

Moreover, because of the combination of Mongolia's nomadic nature and hence its interaction with many different cultures and languages throughout history, the Mongolians' speaking skill is very advanced and allows them for a variety of expressions. On the other hand, Mongolians are very weak at writing skills. Therefore, the people who are working to improve the English education system in Mongolia should take this into account and construct a system in which the students can improve their writing skills in their native language to help their acquisition of English as literacy transfers across languages (August, 2006, p. 247). In order to achieve this, schools should construct programs that focus on the process of writing rather than the product itself as this has been proven more successful in improving students' writing skills. Edelsky (1982) comments that what a writer knows about writing in the first language forms the basis of new hypotheses rather than interferes for writing in a second language (p.227). Biliteracy research done in other contexts supports these findings and studies have shown similar growth patterns between L1 and L2 in writing skills (Serrano & Howard, 2007, p. 153-154) supporting the idea that if a student can learn to read and write in his native language, he will be able to read and write in the target language as well. Also, by implementing a more communicative approach to teaching English, students can learn with more ease and become more fluent speakers instead of becoming stuck in rigid forms of English which may result by relying only on textbook learning.

As to when bilingual education should begin to be introduced into a student's education, since the basic foundation of bilingual education is that students first acquire a firm foundation in their native language before they attempt to learn a second language, bilingual education should be started around the time of the students' upper elementary or middle school years. This is so that the students can fully learn their first language in the primary years and start learning the L2 when they are able to understand what it is that they are learning and be able to fully grasp linguistic concepts in the L2 since they have that understanding in L1.

Some may counter this idea that bilingual education should start after the student has entered the somewhat higher grades with the reason that this may interfere with the critical age in which children can obtain a native-like fluency in a language and may therefore hinder their learning the L2 more naturally, especially in terms of pronunciation. While there is some truth to this explanation and that is why some people put children into the immersion program at an early age, language use is not always about pronunciation. Granted, pronunciation is an important aspect of a person's language use and others may judge a person's language skills based on his pronunciation; however, it is more important to understand and learn a language rather than to have a shallow and superficial knowledge of the language sugarcoated in a native-like pronunciation. Through bilingual education, students can obtain a deeper knowledge of language since they are a bit older and their cognitive skills are more developed and more importantly, they will be able to excel in language even on an academic level.


There are many people who are opposed to and in favor of the bilingual education system for various reasons. However, studies prove that bilingual education is actually a better educational system for the students' language and academic learning. Instead of putting students in an English-only atmosphere and forcing them to learn a new language, it is better to provide this new information in a language that the student can understand.

As English becomes more in demand in the Mongolian society, it is important for the Mongolian government to provide students with a solid foundation in English education. In order to achieve this goal, the Mongolian government needs to come up with specific teaching strategies that would fit the unique cultural and historical background of the Mongolian people. Cohen (2005) suggests that if Mongolia truly desires to become a part of the global world, then its people and its leaders should think carefully as they begin to make decisions and make long-term plans about language learning in Mongolia (p. 215).

As with all studies this one is also imperfect in its theories, especially since it is done by a foreigner not completely aware of all the rules in the Mongolian education system. Furthermore, Mongolia is still in the beginning stages of development and it will take many years before it can come up with a mature education system that can compete with that of other more developed countries. However, if native Mongolian English teachers can continue to study this matter and strive to improve Mongolia's educational system, then it will only be a matter of time before English can become a natural second language to the Mongolian people.