“Inuit believe that education systems…delivered in the Inuit language will lead to better educational outcomes for Inuit.”
Inuit Education Accord, 2009
Bilingual education is the preferred model around the world to provide the best possible education. Children from all backgrounds benefit from bilingual education. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Effective learning
Bilingual education programs help students to learn more effectively and to stay in school. In mother tongue bilingual programs, learning is supported by students being taught in the same language they speak at home. In Indigenous immersion programs, learning is supported by students’ cultures and identities being valued in the schools.
2. Language reclamation
Teaching in and through Indigenous languages in schools helps keep a language strong. Research shows that when the Inuit language is not supported in schools, students stop using it with peers, siblings, and even parents, and can eventually lose their language. Using the Indigenous language at school gives children opportunities to develop different, advanced uses of the language such as storytelling, reading and writing, public speaking, etc.
3. Capable citizens
Bilingual education supports children and youth in the process of becoming capable citizens. Bilingualism opens doors for further learning from Elders or in post-secondary. Bilingualism opens doors for getting jobs and earning more money. Bilingual youth can be more helpful and welcoming. Bilingual parents can pass on their language(s) to the next generation.
4. Better brains
Regardless of which two languages are being learned, research supports the idea that ‘bilingual brains are better’. Students in bilingual education programs tend to be more flexible thinkers, better problem solvers, and have broader conceptual systems, than those who are learning in only one language. Research shows, across the world, that students in bilingual programs ultimately speak and read both languages as well or better than students who learned in only one language.
Research shows that all of these factors work together to make bilingual education an excellent choice for everyone, including speakers of national languages and speakers of Indigenous languages. What are your experiences of bilingual education? How did learning in two languages help you or your children?