The simplest definition of bilingual education is the use of two or more languages in classroom instruction (González 2008) – typically the native language of the student and the dominant societal language. However, a finer distinction must be made between native language instruction and native language support. In bilingual education classrooms, students receive some content-area instruction through the medium of their native language, while other content areas are taught through the dominant societal language (García 2009). In contrast, native (or primary) language support is used in regular mainstream or sheltered immersion classrooms where the dominant societal language is used as the medium of all content-area instruction, but occasional use is made of the native language to help students who lack proficiency in the dominant language cope with and better understand instruction (Wright 2008). While native/primary language support can be an effective strategy for valuing and using students’ home languages and as a resource to help students learn the dominant language and academic content, such support is minimal, temporary and insufficient to help students develop their bilingualism and native language literacy skills.
The focus in this chapter is on bilingual education programs for language minority students that deliberately provide language and content area instruction in both the native language and the dominant societal language. ...