How Important is Bilingual Education?

Across the world today, schools are emerging from the bubble of monolingualism and beginning to immerse themselves in bilingualism. In fact, an increasing number of schools around the globe are beginning to offer second language classes as course options. SAS is no different, yet it seems that many students dismiss the idea of having to take another language course.

The word “hello” in multiple languages. Photo Credit: The Edvocate

SAS has long been recognized for its wide range of learning opportunities and diverse extracurricular activities. Currently, SAS students are offered more than 180 courses, of which three are dedicated to Foreign Language studies: Chinese, French, and Spanish. To meet the graduation requirement, students are mandated to complete an Intermediate Level of any of the three language courses based on their preference.  Although students are typically recommended to engage in four years of continuous bilingual education, a number of students stop learning the next year once their graduation requirements are filled.

Yes, learning a language from scratch may seem like a hindrance– especially when it comes to a high school student living in an era of time constraints and constant demands from academics. Attempting to juggle five AP courses, sports, music, and other extracurricular activities all at the same time is certainly not a piece of cake, and nobody has the time to pick up a foreign language in midst of such a rigorous schedule.

Many students have to deal with stress already on a daily basis. Photo Credit: Goldskin on GIFER

So how can bilingual education benefit students when they are already bogged down with time constraints and other forms of academic rigor?  

ADVOCATES VS CRITICS

There are two sides to the argument of bilingual education: teachers who highly value the existence of such courses, and many students who believe that the program should not be mandated.

When asked about her perspective on bilingual education provided by SAS, junior Nicole Han stated, “Learning a language is beneficial, but I didn’t get anything out of some of the courses… It only taught me the basic concepts of communication that was not worth five years of my learning.”  Likewise, current senior who chose to remain anonymous shared, “Whenever I’m in class, I feel like I know everything. But when I go overseas and try to communicate with the language, I’m lost for words… I believe the language programs should be altered so that it is able to help students communicate in the real world, not just in the classroom.”

Many people place confidence and pride on being bilingual.
Photo credit: Google Images

However, the advocates of bilingual education share a different stance. When asked when and in what circumstances bilingual education can benefit students, Mrs. Wang, an AP Chinese teacher, confidently stated, “Learning Chinese and English at the same time is important because it helps students understand the two very different cultures. In our world today, communication and understanding between individuals is very important and bilingual education helps with just that.” 

The difference between a “multilingual” brain and a “monolingual” brain.  Photo Credit: GIFER

THE REAL ESSENCE 

The real question is, so why should SAS students adhere to the bilingual education requirement?

Being bilingual is essentially a life skill. Photo Credit: Medical Xpress

Well, to compete in an ever-so competitive market and workplace today, fluency in English is only the first step. As Huffington Post mentioned,  if there’s one qualification that employers place value on when hiring, it’s their prospective employee’s fluency in a foreign language. In addition, bilingual education can help people understand cultural differences and feel a connection with one another, allowing interactions among people to go deeper than ever. Further studies have also shown students engaging in bilingual education to perform better academically, enrich their process of learning, and become better problem solvers.

“In our world today, communication and understanding is very important and bilingual education helps with just that.” 

As aforementioned, different people place different values on bilingual education; however, it is important for students to recognize the real essence of such language programs. Although a novice or intermediate level of second language might seem insignificant compared to all the other courses and activities, bilingual education is part of the graduation requirement for a reason: it’s an important life skill for one to possess before moving on into the real world of diversity and competition.

Author: Brenda Lee

Brenda Lee is currently a junior, and this is her first year as a reporter for The Eye. This is her sixth year studying in Singapore American School, and despite coming from a Korean, American, and Hong Kong background, she considers Singapore her home. In her free time, she loves to indulge in bubble tea and consume food from all kinds of cuisine. In addition, she finds happiness in travelling around the globe and exposing herself to different cultures. She can be contacted at lee45288@sas.edu.sg.

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