Bilingual Education in a Global Era

Merriam – Webster Definition: 

bilingual: able to speak and understand two languages. 


In a world that is becoming increasingly smaller, the needs and benefits for learning multiple languages only increases. Also, schools and educators are seeing an increase in students whose mother-tongue is different from the one they learn at school.

Language acquisition, bilingualism, and multilingualism is an issue that must be dealt with daily in the classroom, but also at a national and international level.

How Do International Organizations Address Bilingual Education?

  • UNESCO United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

This organization is one that has voiced its support for language and cultural diversity. They compiled a literature and research based report to provide a “rationale to promote mother tongue-based bi/multilingual early education grounded in international normative frameworks, theory about dual language acquisition, and emerging evidence about the impact of mother tongue based bi/multilingual education initiatives”(UNESCO, 2011, p.9).

This organization published a paper in 2003, Education in a Multilingual World, that champions three main ideas:

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  • UNICEF United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (now known as United Nations Children’s Fund)

This organization believes that education is a fundamental right that is imperative for the successful and productive futures of our children. They believe that one of the benefits of a bilingual education is that it assists the continued education of high risk students, such as children from an indigenous background.

This is wonderful, but in countries with multiple indigenous languages how is this possible?


The Answer:  New Unitary Bilingual-Intercultural Education, or NEUBI

This approach allows students to actively participate in learning by visiting different “learning corners” in each classroom in which the information is culturally and linguistically specific (UNICEF, 2007).

How Do National (U.S) Organizations Address Bilingual Education?

According to The United States Census Bureau,  around 350 languages are spoken in U.S. homes on a daily basis.


U.S. Census Bureau

While a majority of citizens speak English regularly, the existence of this many other languages in one country begs the question, what do U.S. organizations say about bilingual education?

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U.S. Census Bureau

The History of Bilingual Education in the U.S.

After a disgusting history of forced assimilation for the Native Americans, the U.S. passed the Bilingual Education Act in 1968. This law recognized “the special educational needs of the large numbers children of limited English-speaking ability in the United States.” It set a precedent for equality in educational opportunities for language minorities. The Act has since been amended several times, one of which was the Improving America’s Schools Act, signed by Clinton in 1994. This Act promotes bilingual education, foreign language assistance programs, and emergency immigration assistance programs.

  •  National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)

This is a non-profit organization that advocates for “educational equity and excellence for bilingual/multilingual students in a global society.”

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NABE have partnered with a National Campaign,

This initiative was developed with the intention of promoting the importance of “honoring students’ diverse cultures and languages by pronouncing students’ names correctly” (

Not only does NABE advocate for linguistic equity, but it also actively advocates against political attacks on language-minority communities, such as the English Only movement and anti-bilingual-education initiatives.

In recent years the Bilingual Education supporters have suffered set backs that seriously jeopardize its efforts.

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It is encouraging that even though the U.S. has a checkered past with linguistic imperialism, linguistic ignorance, and frankly a large population that persist in an Anglo-centric culture, that there are organizations out there that are fighting for linguistic and cultural equity.


Items of Interest

  •  I searched the Common Core Standards website for “bilingual education” and came up with nothing. Is second language education not considered a part of the “core” subjects students should learn?



  1. Publications, 2011 | Education | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  2. Publications, 2003 / Education / United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (n.d) Retrieved June 30, 2016,  from
  3. Bilingual-intercultural education aims to keep indigenous girls and boys in school, (2007).   (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  4. Number of Languages Spoken in the 15 largest Metro Areas [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  5. Census Bureau Reports at Least 350 Languages Spoken in U.S. Homes. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. Bilingual Education Act (1968). (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  7. Summary of the Improving America’s Schools Act. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  8. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  9. Welcome to the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE). (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2016, from
  10. Infographic / Retrieved June 30, 2016, from

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