Bilingual ban hits teachers

June 12, 1998

Bilingual teacher training faces an uncertain future in the United States with the passage of Proposition 2, which all but bans bilingual teaching in California schools, writes Tim Cornwell.

The measure promises to take 1.4 million children out of bilingual programmes, roughly half of all limited English-speaking children in the US. It will have an immediate impact on colleges of education, it was warned.

Antonio Flores, head of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, said: "It will discourage colleges from training bilingual education teachers and other educators who are very much needed to support children, social workers, administrators etc.

Dr Flores said the measure could also reduce the number of Asian, Latino or other immigrant children reaching college. Already, 30 to 50 per cent of Hispanic children, who comprise the majority of bilingual speakers, fail to complete school.

Duane Campbell, education professor at Sacramento State University, which has the largest bilingual teacher-training programme in California, said the move would dissuade adults whose native language was not English from seeking training and jobs as bilingual teachers.

Proposition 2, passed in a state-wide ballot last week, sweeps away bilingual programmes in schools where children are taught maths and other subjects in their own languages while learning English so they can be "mainstreamed". It replaces them with one year of intensive English.

While the measure was heavily backed by white and conservative voters, it also won a majority of Hispanic voters, including parents who apparently saw bilingual programmes as ineffective in teaching their children English and assimilating them into American life.

California has led the way in ending affirmative action programmes to ease minority students into colleges. The number of Latino admissions at top California colleges, particularly medicine and law, has plunged. Many in education had opposed Proposition 2. A California Faculty Association spokesman called it "mean-spirited and mean-minded".

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