copyright 2015 by S. J. Munson
In her article “Bilingual Education for Global Citizenship” (2015), Sharon Carstens contends that
In an increasingly interconnected world, the monolingual American norm is no longer an acceptable option for American students. Whether viewed from the necessity for intercultural communication in our progressively multicultural societies, from the commitment to fostering critical understanding of cultural differences, or from the standpoint of future employment opportunities, the significant advantages imparted through bilingual and bicultural education should be available to all students.
The model of bilingual education that the author refers to, however, may not be one that many of us are familiar with. When the words bilingual education are mentioned, perhaps most think of the “transitional” bilingual programs in their local school system, in which native languages are employed to instruct new English language speakers in order to facilitate their integration into the main English curriculum. Certainly, this kind of model serves a purpose. There is no doubt that language minority students face daunting challenges, and anything that will improve educational outcomes may be seen as worthwhile. However, as Carstens points out, the ultimate goal of transitional bilingual programs is not, in fact, bilingualism, but rather monolingualism. As an anthropologist concerned with issues of social justice and equity, she believes that we “cannot neglect the crucial importance of challenging an educational system for majority students that remains Eurocentric in focus and fails to impart [to all students] understanding of and appreciation for diverse culture perspectives.”
These issues have long been debated. Twenty and even thirty years ago, a multiculural pedagogy was designed to promote awareness of diversity, what eventually began to be referred to jokingly as the “holidays and heroes” approach. This kind of curriculum came under fire almost from the beginning, and to such an extent that multicultural education moved away from merely validating ethnic diversity and practices, toward a focus on programs to improve outcomes for minority students. This is essentially where we are today. Undeniably, this kind of focus is important; however, there still remains the question of how to instill respect and understanding of diverse cultures to majority students in this country. Carstens believes that one model of bilingual and bicultural education has been shown to achieve this.
For the past ten years, a growing trend has been dual language programs in K-8 public and private schools. For purposes of clarity, let us refer to these programs as two-way bilingual instruction or two-way immersion programs. Many of these dual-language or bilingual programs are based on the language immersion model developed in Canada, where the second language (French) is used to teach regular course content to English speakers for all or part of the day. The difference is that the Canadian model was used for English speakers only (one-way immersion). In two-way bilingual instruction both minority and majority language students receive instruction in both languages. For example, curriculum may be divided evenly between the two languages, with students receiving Math and Social Studies in one language and Science and Language Arts in the other, sometimes on a rotating basis. The problem with most traditional bilingual programs is that minority language students are often isolated for all or part of the day, receiving no or limited interaction with their English-speaking peers. In the two-way system both groups benefit from mutual interaction in both languages.
We must recall, too, that the Canadian system was born out of frustration with the status quo of cultural division between native Québécois and English speakers, all against the backdrop of the so-called Quiet Revolution, a cultural uprising of the country’s native French speakers. It was, however, a small group of rather forward-thinking English-speaking parents, who, deploring the linguistic and cultural bifurcation of their community, set out to create a more “ harmonious and integrated society” by finding a way to make their children fluent in French. Contemporary research had shown that bilingual Canadians tended to have a more positive view of the other ethnic group. Crawford (2004) argues, however, that such tolerance may often be limited to the language itself, rather than the actual people group, if significant interaction is lacking (as in the case of one-way immersion).
What are the reasons for which majority or minority parents or care-givers might choose a two-way dual language school ? The motivations are diverse. Some parents of a particular ethnicity or some bicultural families might select such a program as a means of educating their children in and preserving a specific cultural heritage. Others believe that bilingualism will give their children an economic advantage in a rapidly globalizing and competitive world; still others that childhood is the optimal time to learn a new language, as much research bears out. Others may believe, quite rightly, that learning various content areas in the target language is a more effective way of learning the language than simply memorizing rules and passing tests.
Studies conducted by the National Literacy Panel over a twenty-year period (1985-2006) established the benefits of teaching minority-language children to read first in their home languages. These meta-analyses firmly concluded that primary language instruction promotes achievement in English. Interestingly, however, it was noted at the time that in some of the programs studied, children also were benefitting from learning to read in both languages simultaneously, although at different times of the day. As Goldenberg and Cohen (2010) write :
This suggests that instead of students’ having to learn to read in the home language first, and only then learning to read in the second language (the typical bilingual education model), they can learn to read in both simultaneously. 
Linguistically speaking, those who tout a dual-language approach argue that “ teaching language through content gives students the context for meaningful language use,” which has long been considered as essential for successful second language acquisition. Moreover, there are more conclusive studies that demonstrate the potential short and long-term benefits of two-way dual language programs.
In a ground-breaking though still controversial 18-year study published in 2004, Collier and Thomas of George Mason University analyzed more than 6 million student records nationwide. Their conclusion was that “full-immersion bilingual programs in which native and nonnative students are given instruction in both languages [two-way bilingual instruction] are the most effective.” Their largest school district research site included bilingual programs in the Houston Independent School District. There they found that native-Spanish speakers remained either at or above grade level in both Spanish and English in the first through fifth grades. Interestingly, as Carstens notes, the study also found that “dual language schooling can help transform the experience of teachers, administrators and parents into an inclusive and supportive school community for all.” As Collier and Thomas explain,
In addition to enhanced second language acquisition, two-way bilingual classes resolve some of the persistent sociocultural concerns that have resulted from segregated transitional bilingual classes. Often, negative perceptions have developed with classmates assuming that those students assigned to the transitional bilingual classes were those with “problems,” resulting in social distance or descrimination… Two-way bilingual classes taught by sensitive teachers can lead to a context where students from each language group learn to respect their fellow students as valued partners in the learning process with much knowledge to teach each other. 
According to the researchers, the astounding results of this study were a “wake-up call” to the entire field of bilingual education. Goldenberg and Coleman, among others, however, tend to be more cautious in their enthusiasm for the study’s conclusions regarding academic achievement, since the study’s authors seem to have made no accommodation for selection bias. Instead, for them, more conclusive are the data in the area of fostering cross-cultural appreciation and sensitivity. Scanlan (2009), however, contends that the model does indeed promote “important social justice goals: bilingualism, cross-cultural appreciation, and academic success for Latino students who are typically underserved in schools.” He credits two-way bilingual instruction with creating
more unified communities in public schools among parents and caregivers, since speakers of both majority and minority languages are grouped together in an effort to develop literacy skills in both languages and consequently foster cross-cultural relationships in both cultures.
In a series of key studies, Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, too, has observed patterns of achievement similar to the Collier-Thomas study. She also found that dual language programs are particularly strong in promoting among minority parents a positive attitude toward the school and a sense of belonging, since in these schools English-speaking parents tend not to dominate and both languages are treated with equal respect. In addition, she states that data
suggests that ethnic minority children in a high-quality educational program that incorporates the language and culture of both groups and fosters academic achievement could also enhance the perceived scholastic competence and global self-worth of those students. 
In addition, other studies have shown a higher motivation and passion toward the pursuit of higher education among high school students who previously attended two-way programs (Cobb, 2006).
Such models of bilingual education are not without their challenges, however. For example, finding content resources and materials in a target language that are appropriate for non-native speakers can be difficult. Also finding instructors with expertise in teaching content in one or both languages is also challenging. To teach a language is one thing; to be able to teach content in that language requires additional skills and experience. Bilingual education in general also connects to hot-button issues such as immigration and multiculturalism. Based on this political blow-back, California, Massachusetts and Arizona, in particular, have already banned bilingual programs in favor of an English-only approach. Lastly, some non-cognate languages, such as Chinese, require much more effort (up to five times) to learn than other cognate languages, such as Spanish. Immersion programs must therefore make careful decisions as they choose what types of content will be offered in the second language. The danger is that students who experience difficulties learning content in a second language not only may fall behind, but as a result may also grow frustrated with the second language itself.
Although the research in the field of dual-language instruction is still incomplete, it seems clear that two-way bilingual instruction may show much promise, in promoting bilingualism and biliteracy, short and long-term academic success, and attitudes of respect and understanding among minority and majority students. All of these goals could be said to be the direct result of a structure that provides meaningful interaction among the two language groups. We must be cautious, however, in assuming that just because a program is labeled dual-language, it will meet all these goals. Much depends on how the school is organized and administered and on the training and experience of teachers and staff. Support from the surrounding community is also key.
With the ever expanding immigrant and indigenous minority populations in our nation’s school systems, two-way bilingual education is possible in a variety of languages. For those who can see immigration and diversity as a vast cultural and linguistic resource and opportunity, rather than a threat, it has tremendous potential not only to provide an enriching educational experience, but also to help ease some of the problems and tensions between immigrant families and English-speaking communities.
 Sharon Carstens, “Bilingual Education for Global Citizenship: Creating an Integrated Language/Culture Curriculum for Mandarin/English Students,” Human Organization, (Spring, 2015), retrieved 12 September 2015.
 James Crawford, Educating English Learners: Language Diversity in the Classroom, 5th ed., (Los Angeles: Bilingual Education Services, 2004), 214-215.
 Claude Goldenberg and Rhoda Coleman, Promoting Academic Achievement among English Learners, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010), 26-27.
 Crawford, 214.
 Virginia P. Collier and Wayne P. Thomas, “The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All,” NABE Journal of Research and Practice, (Winter, 2004), 2.
 Collier & Thomas, 1.
 Crawford, 300.
 Goldman and Coleman, 30.
 Martin Scanlan and Deborah Palmer, “Race, Power and (In)equity within Two-Way Immersion Settings,” Urban Review, (December, 2009), retrieved 18 October 2015.
 Brian Cobb, Diego Vega, and Cindy Kronauge, “Effects of an Elementary Dual Language Immersion School Prorgam on Junior High Achievement,” Middle Grades Research Journal, (Spring, 2006), 36.
 Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, “Review of Research and Best Practices on Effective Features of Dual Language Programs,” Draft (March, 2005), 40.
 Quoted in Crawford, 304.
 Christine Armario, “U.S. Bilingual Education Challenge: Students Learning English as Second Language at Risk,” Huffington Post, April 14, 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
 Crawford, 307.