Bilingual Education

Bilingual projects in schools will receive Government funding to boost learning of children who are not native Britis. Twenty-one LEAs are chosen to take part in the bilingual pilot schemes. Newham and Tower hamlets with highest number of bilingual children are going to be targeted seriously to raise the standard of education because they are at the bottom of the educational league table.

Bilingual education should have been the part and parcel of British education system 50 years ago when bilingual children started attending state schools but neither LEAs nor native teachers recognize bilingualism. This can have a very negative effect on their cognitive, emotional and social development. Muslim children suffer more than others. Supporters of bilingual teaching have long argued that it has wide benefits such as improving skills in dealing with people from other cultures. When pupils have to conceptualise and grasp issues in a foreign language as well as in their mother tongue, it will help develop an ability to understand complex and multifactual relationships between various themes.

According to recent figures, the highest number of Pakistani pupils is in primary schools. They come to schools with multiple languages. They are forced to learn English while their mother tongues are ignored. In my opinion teaching English is cultural imperialism in action. In the evening and at weekend they attend Masajid where they are exposed to Arabic and Urdu languages. By the time they are seven they will be forced to learn one of the European languages. On the other hand native children come to schools where they find positive co-relation between school and home. By the time they are seven, will be exposed to the teaching of a European language while Muslim pupils right from Nursery level are bombarded with variety of different languages. They become jack of languages but master of none and there is a possibility that a minority develops negative attitudes towards languages.

Bilingual education is not going to help Muslim children to raise their standard of education because native teachers are not suitable and the management of LEAs is in the hands of those who not fit for such adventures. Diversity is not a problem but rather strength. Specialist schools, city academies and extra funding are not going to help Muslim children. Master classes for most gifted pupils have failed to ensure enough pupils from minority groups. Millions of pounds spent on booster classes for 11-years-old have made little difference to primary standard. Numerous Whitehall initiatives had failed to tackle growing inequalities. Schools in some of the most deprived urban areas of England are still struggling to raise standards despite billions of pounds of extra government funding. Inner cities secondaries are falling even further behind affluent schools in the suburbs. Achievement in deprived areas has not risen sufficiently in the past decade.

According to Tim Bridghouse, state education in London is in crises. The reason is that the needs and demands of the bilingual pupils have always been neglected. The number of Newham pupils permanently excluded from their schools for unacceptable behavior increased again in the last academic year. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry identified institutional racism as a major factor disadvantaging minority ethnic groups. One of the deepest expressions of institutional racism affecting immigrant communities, and one that has been long documented, is he unequal treatment of their children by the education system. They are motivated, but knocked back by their experiences of the school system. They are often treated more harshly and viewed with lower teachers expectations on the basis of teachers’ assumptions about their motivation and ability. Liz Brooker of Institute of Education found evidence of institutional racism from the day children started schools. State schools are unable to cater for the emotional, social and spiritual development of Muslim children. Parents can withdraw their children from assembly but only a small minority does in the culturally mixed London Borough of Newham; only five children are exempted in 2001-2002.

The silent majority of Muslim community has been engaged in setting up Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models. Now there are more than 120 schools and more are in the pipeline, four of them are state funded while others have to charge fees. The waiting lists are lengthy. There are thousands of parents who can’t afford to pay but they would like their children to attend Muslim schools. There should be an alternative and British Government should be thinking seriously about introducing Voucher System so that parents can choose where to send their children. DFES and LEAs should provide financial help to set up schools.