Picture by Asbjorn Lonvig
New York Public schools have gained a lot of media attention (The New York Times, France 2, Le Parisien etc.) for their implementation of French dual-language programs in which half the classes are taught in French and the other half in English.
These programs have been running for over eight years now and have had a lot of success. They have reshaped neighbourhoods. Some parents have moved into an area close to the bilingual schools just so their children can be part of the program. It has even changed the dynamics of some neighbourhoods, with the spread of French owned cafes and restaurants.
One of the main reasons for the rapid spread of the program is of course the interest from the community and the help of the NY department of education but also the financial involvement of the French government. The French government has been giving money and grants to schools and has provided training for teachers in France and books for students. Due to financial difficulties, they are now turning to private contributions for additional support.
“We’d like to serve families in underserved areas,” says Mr Jaumont, the French Embassy’s education attaché.
Bilingual programs often require extra funds, as resources need to be in both languages, as do the teachers. As a result, they have often been reserved to the elite. It is so wonderful to see that New York is making bilingual programs available to mainstream schools.
Parents and teachers see the benefits of such programs. For multinational families it’s a way for their children to move easily from one culture to another and also help their future job prospects. But it has also had a lot of success amongst non-native French speakers as they can see the advantages in dual-languages programs for the future of their children.
Being bilingual is an undeniable advantage in today’s increasingly globalised world. The study of two languages has been found to increase creativity and cultural awareness, making it an invaluable asset for our multicultural society. It would be great if public schools around the world could look at their demographics and become bilingual instead of monolingual.