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Language in schools: The challenge of immigrant youth

On Behalf of | May 19, 2016 | Immigration |

Immigrants choose to come to the United States for dozens of different reasons. From a job or investment opportunity to reuniting with family members, the U.S. is often seen as an attractive destination. Unfortunately, though, there can be unforeseen consequences as immigrant children proceed through the educational system.

The article “The Education of Immigrant Children” highlights several challenges that immigrant youth or U.S.-born children of immigrants face in the school system. What can we do to eliminate these challenges and ensure the growing strength of our children?

Immigrants face a host of challenges from navigating the language barrier to finding work. However, an interesting part of the article focused exclusively on the language challenges that immigrant youth face in school. The author notes that one out of every four children in the United States is an immigrant or a U.S.-born child of immigrants. Even with this amount of students, many schools are ill-equipped to meet the needs of dual-language children.

In today’s global economy, bilingual individuals have a decided advantage in several arenas. Unfortunately, our school systems aren’t set up to let children learning multiple languages flourish. In many cases, the children speak one language at home and another at school. The author of the piece specifically highlights the demands of standardized testing. The schools in general and the teachers in specific are forced to emphasize rote learning in English, “neglecting the incredible asset of children’s native language and much of what researchers have discovered about how children learn second languages.”

But, what can be done?

The first step is understanding. We must understand that our nation is made up of individuals from all around the world. We must be able to adapt and encourage learning differences. We must be able to straddle multiple cultures and improve race relations. By breaking down stereotypes and encouraging learning, we can start to see an improvement in the quality of education and the strength of our nation.

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