Bilingual Education: a Way to Promote English Literacy?

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As a global language, English is used by more than one billion people in the world to access information, do business, and maintain social communication. It is also a main language on the internet and computer’s storage systems. Therefore, a good mastery of English is a very essential skill in this global communication era. To be considered literate in English, one needs to be able to communicate effectively in English which requires more than just the ability to produce English words and structurally correct sentences. It implies that the person should have a good mastery of English Literacy.

Literacy is commonly defined as the ability to read and write. In the specific context of academic second language and foreign language, literacy refers to: “… the use of socially, historically, and culturally situated practices of creating and interpreting meaning through texts. It entails at least a tacit awareness of the relationships between textual conventions and their context of use and, ideally, the ability to reflect critically on those relationships… It draws on a wide range of cognitive abilities, on the knowledge of written and spoken language, on knowledge of genres, and on cultural knowledge.” (Kern, 200:16).

Based on the definition above, there are seven principles of Literacy that arise out of definition i.e. Literacy involves interpretation, collaboration, conventions, cultural knowledge, problem solving, reflection and selfreflection, and language use. These principles can be summarized by the macro principle i.e. “literacy involves communication.” The macro principle makes a link between literacy and communication. It drives to the shifting in the language pedagogy from language usage to language use. In the context of teaching literacy, this implicates an extension of focus beyond text (i.e. stretches of concrete, observable language data) to discourse (i.e. text plus the social and cognitive process involved in its realization as an expressive or communicate act) (Kern, 2000:19). There are four level of literacy namely performative, functional, informational, and epistemic. Moreover, Wells (as cited in Hammond, 1992:9) describes performative level as emphasizing on the code as code. It implies becoming literate is simply a matter of acquiring those skills that allow written message to be decoded into speech in order to ascertain its meaning and those skills that allow the spoken message to be encoded in writing.

Functional refers to the use of literacy in interpersonal communication. To be literate means to be able to cope with the demands of everyday life that involve written language such as reading a popular magazine, writing a job application, and following procedural instructions. Furthermore, in Informational level, literacy plays the important role in the communication of knowledge, particularly disciplinebased knowledge such as comprehending scientific journals and other academic writing. Epistemic level, according to this perspective, is to have available ways of acting upon and transforming knowledge and experience that are in general unavailable to those who have never learned to read and write. Regarding the junior high school (SLTP) students in Indonesia, the Curriculum 2004 demands that the literacy level of the students should be at the Functional Level In the model of language education program, Hammond (1992) proposed that the literacy perspective entails some points: (i) the focus of language education program is on language at the whole text level rather than at the sentences level; (ii) the language should be taught in context; (iii) assessment should be done based on the models introduced to the students; (iv) spoken and written language are different in nature and play different roles in education and therefore, the students should be taught accordingly; (v) the different natures between spoken and written language implies that writing is not a speech written down. In other words, writing has an autonomous system and so is speaking.

An approach to gain the objectives above is through Bilingual Education. Bilingual education’s purpose is to help students to maintain their native language or to continue to grow in their native language while acquiring the second language. The term bilingual education itself may refer to the use of a second or foreign language in school for the teaching of content subjects (Richards et al, 1997:36); or it may refer to an education scheme in which the child receives educational instruction in at least two languages with one of these being the mother tongue of some or all the students in the classroom (Walter, 2005:4).

In general, there are two models of bilingual education, additive bilingual education and subtractive bilingual education. The purpose of additive bilingual education program is to develop full bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturism by adding the second language and maintaining and developing the first language. In contrast, the primary purpose of subtractive bilingual education is to become monolingual in the second language by abandoning the native language (Cummin in Soltero , 2004).

Name : Ella Masita

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