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Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

Rural and Remote

Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

B. Definitions

Bilingual education

In a paper prepared

for the inquiry, Professor Joseph Lo Bianco, Chief Executive of Language

Australia, set out four broad categories of the use of more than one language

in education. These are immersion education, submersion education, bilingual

education and foreign/second or additional language teaching.

1. Immersion


Immersion education

refers to a methodology for the teaching of second languages in which

the second language is adopted as the medium of instruction. The objective

of immersion education is the mastery of the target language, which for

reasons of pedagogical efficiency is selected as the medium of instruction.

There are various

gradations of immersion education ranging from partial to full depending

on the proportion of curriculum time devoted to the two languages and

the duration of the program. The most extensive programs involve the entire

span of a child's education imparted equally or close to equally in two

or more languages.

Typically immersion

education refers to the induction of 'mainstream' or even 'elite' members

of the society in a second prestige and desired language. The most well

known immersion programs are the Canadian programs which aim to teach

English speaking Canadians French, by conducting a part or all of the

education of these children in and through French. Full and partial immersion

programs are also popular in European Schools (these are EU schools not

national schools in Europe).

2. Submersion


Submersion education

refers to the 'sink or swim' approach to the teaching of linguistic minorities.

No special effort is made to teach learners the general language of the

curriculum, not pedagogical or methodological adaptations are made to

ensure that the medium of instruction is learned by the students. It is

assumed that these children will 'pick up' the language in the regular

course of participation in the school's activities.

3. Bilingual


Bilingual education

involves the use of the language spoken by language minority students

as the medium of instruction of the regular school curriculum. There are

many gradations and types of bilingual education. Some of the main ones

are: transitional bilingual education, mono-literate bilingual education,

bi-literate bilingual education and full maintenance bilingual education.

Transitional bilingual

education refers to the most common approach to bilingual education. The

Bilingual Education Act of 1968 (Title VII of the Elementary and

Secondary Education Act) of the United States, as subsequently litigated

in Lao v Nichols (1974) and Castaneda v Pickard (1978) establishes

transitional bilingual education as a required educational approach for

'limited English proficient' children in the United States. (Proposition

227 in California adopted by public referendum in 1998 contravenes the

BEA provisions). Essentially transitional bilingual education involves

the limited and strictly time bound use of the mother tongue of non-English

speaking children for only such time as is necessary for such children

to master sufficient English to permit their general learning in English.

This is usually the years of the early primary school. These programs

are sometimes called early exit bilingual instruction.

Mono-literate bilingual

education may last longer than transitional bilingual education and is

distinguished from it in that literacy activities are only ever developed

and conducted in the second or mainstream language, while the first language

mother tongue, is used only for oral language purposes.

Bi-literate bilingual

education involves long duration or late exit programs which seek to impart

dual literacy mastery in the mother tongue and the language of the regular

curriculum, where these are not identical.

Full maintenance

bilingual education can resemble the full immersion programs. Only social

differences among the learner categories distinguish them.

4. Foreign

(or second) language teaching

Foreign or second

language teaching refers to programs of instruction in which the object

of instruction is the language itself, the target language. This means

that there is little or no use of the target language to teach general

subject matter. In practice such strict adoption of the principle of the

target language being the object of instruction is extremely rare. It

would be most unusual for foreign or second language education programs

not to include subject matter not strictly about the language itself.

However, the distinction is maintained in that this subject matter is

not usually the regular curriculum of the school imparted via the target

language (a substantial proportion of such teaching would constitute an

immersion methodology).

In foreign or second

language programs the purpose is not therefore the more efficient learning

of the wider curriculum nor the maintenance of general conceptual development

while a learner acquires the language of the curriculum, but the acquisition

of an additional language. ESL is the most relevant kind of foreign

language education for our present purposes. It is useful to distinguish

between ESL and English as a Foreign Language. ESL applies to contexts

in which the learners may encounter English in the informal and surrounding

environment. In foreign language contexts English would be completely

absent. The presence of English in the 'informal environment' means that

learners are able to acquire or have direct encounters with English, leading

to inductive learning of the language. It also means, however, that social

and regional varieties of the language may be present, perhaps in the

learners' direct environment, and these may carry identity functions for

the learners. This is often the case with indigenous children in Australia

who encounter or speak and identify with non-prestige forms of Australian


The use of a second

language for instructional purposes is an essential condition for defining

the category of bilingual/immersion education. Although in foreign language

programs the 'target' language may also used as a medium of instruction

this will be limited in time and scope compared to its use in bilingual/immersion

programs. In foreign language programs the target language is the principal

object of study. Its use to convey concepts, ideas and to engage learners

in communicative activities that may constitute its use as a medium will

not typically seek to impart the regular curriculum.







Indigenous students - a profile


updated 2 December 2001.