Rural and Remote
Education Inquiry Briefing Paper
In a paper prepared
for the inquiry, Professor Joseph Lo Bianco, Chief Executive of Language
Australia, set out four broad categories of the use of more than one language
in education. These are immersion education, submersion education, bilingual
education and foreign/second or additional language teaching.
refers to a methodology for the teaching of second languages in which
the second language is adopted as the medium of instruction. The objective
of immersion education is the mastery of the target language, which for
reasons of pedagogical efficiency is selected as the medium of instruction.
There are various
gradations of immersion education ranging from partial to full depending
on the proportion of curriculum time devoted to the two languages and
the duration of the program. The most extensive programs involve the entire
span of a child's education imparted equally or close to equally in two
or more languages.
education refers to the induction of 'mainstream' or even 'elite' members
of the society in a second prestige and desired language. The most well
known immersion programs are the Canadian programs which aim to teach
English speaking Canadians French, by conducting a part or all of the
education of these children in and through French. Full and partial immersion
programs are also popular in European Schools (these are EU schools not
national schools in Europe).
refers to the 'sink or swim' approach to the teaching of linguistic minorities.
No special effort is made to teach learners the general language of the
curriculum, not pedagogical or methodological adaptations are made to
ensure that the medium of instruction is learned by the students. It is
assumed that these children will 'pick up' the language in the regular
course of participation in the school's activities.
involves the use of the language spoken by language minority students
as the medium of instruction of the regular school curriculum. There are
many gradations and types of bilingual education. Some of the main ones
are: transitional bilingual education, mono-literate bilingual education,
bi-literate bilingual education and full maintenance bilingual education.
education refers to the most common approach to bilingual education. The
Bilingual Education Act of 1968 (Title VII of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act) of the United States, as subsequently litigated
in Lao v Nichols (1974) and Castaneda v Pickard (1978) establishes
transitional bilingual education as a required educational approach for
'limited English proficient' children in the United States. (Proposition
227 in California adopted by public referendum in 1998 contravenes the
BEA provisions). Essentially transitional bilingual education involves
the limited and strictly time bound use of the mother tongue of non-English
speaking children for only such time as is necessary for such children
to master sufficient English to permit their general learning in English.
This is usually the years of the early primary school. These programs
are sometimes called early exit bilingual instruction.
education may last longer than transitional bilingual education and is
distinguished from it in that literacy activities are only ever developed
and conducted in the second or mainstream language, while the first language
mother tongue, is used only for oral language purposes.
education involves long duration or late exit programs which seek to impart
dual literacy mastery in the mother tongue and the language of the regular
curriculum, where these are not identical.
bilingual education can resemble the full immersion programs. Only social
differences among the learner categories distinguish them.
(or second) language teaching
Foreign or second
language teaching refers to programs of instruction in which the object
of instruction is the language itself, the target language. This means
that there is little or no use of the target language to teach general
subject matter. In practice such strict adoption of the principle of the
target language being the object of instruction is extremely rare. It
would be most unusual for foreign or second language education programs
not to include subject matter not strictly about the language itself.
However, the distinction is maintained in that this subject matter is
not usually the regular curriculum of the school imparted via the target
language (a substantial proportion of such teaching would constitute an
In foreign or second
language programs the purpose is not therefore the more efficient learning
of the wider curriculum nor the maintenance of general conceptual development
while a learner acquires the language of the curriculum, but the acquisition
of an additional language. ESL is the most relevant kind of foreign
language education for our present purposes. It is useful to distinguish
between ESL and English as a Foreign Language. ESL applies to contexts
in which the learners may encounter English in the informal and surrounding
environment. In foreign language contexts English would be completely
absent. The presence of English in the 'informal environment' means that
learners are able to acquire or have direct encounters with English, leading
to inductive learning of the language. It also means, however, that social
and regional varieties of the language may be present, perhaps in the
learners' direct environment, and these may carry identity functions for
the learners. This is often the case with indigenous children in Australia
who encounter or speak and identify with non-prestige forms of Australian
The use of a second
language for instructional purposes is an essential condition for defining
the category of bilingual/immersion education. Although in foreign language
programs the 'target' language may also used as a medium of instruction
this will be limited in time and scope compared to its use in bilingual/immersion
programs. In foreign language programs the target language is the principal
object of study. Its use to convey concepts, ideas and to engage learners
in communicative activities that may constitute its use as a medium will
not typically seek to impart the regular curriculum.
Indigenous students - a profile
updated 2 December 2001.