Bilingual education – the path to a new school

When Ofelia Garcia in her book Bilingual Education in the 21st Century – a Global Perspective  states that “bilingual education is the only possible education in the 21st century”, what does she mean by that? Is she saying that she envisages a future with only bilingual schools?

Bilingual Education, for a lot of people, is still the kind of Education you have at bilingual or international schools. It is, therefore, a kind of Education that is only available to a few privileged people – the ones who can afford it. It is an Education for the elite, and it does not have a strong power for social transformation.

The latest studies, however, have revealed that bilingual education can happen in many different school settings, from the wealthiest to the poorest. Bilingual Education is an approach, is a methodology paradigm, is not directly related to the number of teaching hours. It is a new view on  how we can acquire and learn languages, and it gives us a way of incorporating this into the broad curriculum, bringing benefits to Education as a whole, and to a much broader range of schools. This finding has an enormous impact in the way we can now make bilingual education possible. Now it is scalable. Now it can become a right of everyone, and not a privilege of a few anymore.

So when I claim for bilingual education for all, I believe in what Ofelia Garcia has told us. This new concept of Bilingual Education makes this claim possible. Being bilingual, following this new concept, means being included in the world. It means understanding different cultures, different logics, different mindsets, aloing with different languages. It means being able to understand the relativity of some concepts we sometimes believe are universal: beauty, right or wrong, adequate or inadequate, polite or rude… and so it means we must understand different values to tolerate and accept them.

We are far away from making this dream come true here in Brazil. But at least now we know this dream is not just a utopia: it can actually happen. And it has the power to transform schools and Education as a whole. Let us keep on dreaming!

Carlos Henrique Trindade

Carlos Henrique Trindade has been in the ELT world for over 27 years and throughout this time he has worked in some of the main international publishers. Carlos is a specialist in Bilingual Education and has been implementing bilingual education programs in schools all over Brazil for the past five years. Carlos is currently the leader of Santillana's Group newest initiative: Educate Bilingual Program.

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