Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Bilingual Education Act

Congress legislated the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 in order to mandate schools to provide bilingual education programs. This was the first time congress had endorsed funding for bilingual education. The Bilingual Program was a federally funded program through Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with the revision of Improving America's Schools Act of 1994.

Special assistance may vary from one district or school to another, however all special assistance programs were required to give language minority students "full access to the learning environment, the curriculum, special services and assessment in a meaningful way" Bilingual Education Act: Title VII.

"According to the Bilingual Education Act, the terms limited 'English proficiency' and 'limited English proficient' refer to : 'A) individuals who were not born in the U.S. or whose native language is a language other than English; B) individuals who come from environments where a language other than English is dominant; and C) individuals who are American Indian or Alaska Natives and who come from environments where a language other than English has had a significant impact on their level of English language proficiency; and who, by reason thereof, have sufficient difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language to deny such individuals the opportunity to learn successfully in classrooms where the language of instruction is English or to participate fully in society. 20 U.S.C. 3283 (a)(1)"

Prior to World War I, the opportunity for a bilingual education presented itself much more readily to a student. Many schools offered English instruction along with the instruction of such subjects as Math and History in the native language of the student. With the post WWI anti-German sentiments in the U.S., a wave of nativism and isolationism backlashed against these bilingual trends. Students were frowned upon for speaking their non-English native tongues. This trend carried on through WWII and only began to be remedied in the 1960s with the backlash against cold war politics and the nativism of pro-Vietnam War verbiage. The result was the Bilingual Education Act of 1968.

After this legislation, came the Lau v. Nichols decision of 1974, which was based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The decision stated that "there is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education."

In 1980, President Carter established The Department of Education. Within this Department, the Bilingual Education campaign could step up its efforts within the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs.

For More Information: Department of Education: Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs personnel and Bilingual Education information. Bilingual Education History.

Prepared by Peter Kipp

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Last updated on May 26, 2002.


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