Sihong Chen (Blog post 3)
Bilingual education has gained lots of attention in America and Canada and now it has become a hot issue in China. So I want to talk about the development of bilingualism under Chinese contexts. I will begin with my classroom observation experience in one bilingual school in Beijing. When I was a senior in my university, my adviser always provided some opportunities for us to do some classroom observation in some schools in Beijing. I noticed that teachers in bilingual schools already began to infuse dual language into their curriculum. Students in class were exposed to English contexts as much as possible. English was used as instruction in many subjects, not only restricted to English class. Under this mode of instruction, students are expected to enhance their English but it seems that higher English competence is more important than their comprehension of Chinese which is their mother tongue.
It makes me think about why now in China bilingual education are highly praised and many schools began to implement it in succession, from kindergarten to university. Here, I want to mention some influential factors of bilingual education in China. According to Baker (2011), bilingual education is a component under the social, cultural and political framework. From the social perspective, in China, lots of parents prepare their children at an early age for life in a global community. If the employees are bilingual, they are more likely to be recruited and gain a high salary and professional promotion. From the perspective of self-development, bilingualism may contribute to the development of cognitive ability, which may promote students’ divergent and creative thinking. Bilingual education can also satisfy the demand if student’s future self-development, which provides a solid foundation for students to do research, obtain information and go abroad to continue advanced studies. From the cultural perspective, according to Baker (2011), more emphasis on individual achievement and ethnic identity and less emphasis in communities and family may contribute to the bilingual education. Specifically, in China, the desire of bilingual education is closely related to the cultural exchange under the global contexts.
However, we need to take caution when implementing bilingual education in China. Based on my observation in this bilingual school, some students in class could not follow up and sometimes they were so confused of the instruction given by teachers, which not only exerts negative influence on their foreign language learning but also on their mother tongue and learning of other subjects. We also need to take teaching conditions and teachers’ capability into consideration and make the reasonable choices about bilingual education.
Overall, bilingual education, in different contexts, may have some differentiation. China may learn from some western countries that already have a long history of bilingual or even multilingual education.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (Vol. 79). Multilingual matters