Over the past decade, there has been an increasing trend towards implementing bilingual education programs both in private and public schools in many countries. Some of these bilingual programs can be found in Hongkong, Thailand, United States, unexceptionally Indonesia. In Thailand, for instance, in 2003 the government revised their national curriculum to enhance opportunities for bilingual programs. Similarly, the Indonesian government has recognized a need to improve its educational systems for pro-longed terms. Thus, a number of schools in Indonesia, particularly the International Standard Schools initiate English bilingual classes. Indeed, such a bilingual program becomes a significant breakthrough to encourage the use of English in the instructional settings. That is why; this paper provides the background information in terms of the definition, need, and benefits of bilingual education.
Let us first deal with the definition of bilingual education. Bilingual is defined as “being able to speak two languages equally well because you have used them since you were very young” (Oxford Learner’s Pocket Dictionary, 2003). Meanwhile, the term bilingual education refers to the use of a second or foreign language in schools for the teaching of content subjects such as math and physics. Further, bilingual education has both a specific and generic meaning with respect to children who do not know English. It is then broadly developed to the assorted special efforts to educate and serve limited English language learners (http://www.eslbase.com/). Additionally, Brisk states that the bilingual education can be considered either additive or subtractive in terms of its linguistics goals, depending on whether the students are encouraged to add their linguistics repertoire or to replace their native language with the majority language (http://www.proenglish.org/). Generally speaking, the bilingual education is the practice of using two languages as media of instructions. In Indonesian context, it is meant as a variant of content-based language teaching in which students use English as their foreign language to learn subject matters content. In other words, the classroom activities are set up with two different languages which include, of course, Indonesian and English as the bilingual teaching instruments.
Subsequently, the second part to discuss is about the need for bilingual education. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, proficiency in only one language is not enough for educational successes. The global challenges often require the ability to function in more than one language. As is abundantly clear English has now achieved the global status. In Indonesia, although English is not as widely used as it is in English-speaking countries, it is then included as a part of the school curriculum. On the other hand, we cannot deny that as the official language of the country, Indonesian or locally called Bahasa Indonesia is used as the medium of instruction in schools and as a major means of communication in mass media and publications throughout the country. The use of English in Indonesia, indeed, illustrates its global status and simply mirrors a small portion of what is occurring worldwide. Consequently, these days, schools offer the bilingual education program whereby English, in particular, is considered to be the first foreign language used in the teaching process. Moreover, this prospective program is mainly directed to enhance the language development, specifically for the students’ English competence in the subject matter. As the result, their proficiency in English is expected to improve gradually.
Now, let us concentrate on the last part of this writing which is about the benefits of bilingual education programs. As has been previously stated, the bilingual education program focuses on teaching non-English speaking students core subjects in their native language as they learn English. This program, however, can be beneficial for the students in terms of acquiring their limited English mastery. We all know that either by an accident or by a choice, English has become the language most used around the world. This is probably because the science and technology are advancing rapidly; more people have finally come to realize to learn another language besides their mother tongues. Therefore, to keep up with this reality, the implementation of bilingual education programs is designed to make the students stay ahead for obtaining a better English proficiency from the classroom activities. In addition, such a program can lead the schools to have a competitive orientation in upgrading achievements. Going hand in hand with their English bilingual and instructional programs, schools will struggle to foreground the quality of learning either in the National domain or the International one. Obviously, this will create a good competition among schools in Indonesia in order to maximize the learning progress.
Those are several explanations about the bilingual education program in a brief. We can understand what it is actually about in terms of the definition, need, and benefits. In summary, we may say that the bilingual education program can be a model of integrating the second language acquisition, especially English, in the instructional settings. Additionally, I would like to recommend that the teachers should maintain the classroom interaction to enable the students acquire the most of the language intake exposed to them, particularly the subjects dealing with the bilingual education. Hence, the practice of bilingual education programs is able to capitalize on students’ access to English in their immediate environment as a resource for learning.
Muhammad Khoirul Anwar