OP-ED

Rhode Island needs dual-language immersion programs for future success

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Our society has changed, and the demographics of our population, especially in our schools, are no longer adequately served by the old model of language instruction and education. Our global economy and society requires multi-lingual future workers and in order for our children to be successful in this expansive multi-lingual world, we must prepare them with dual-language immersion programs in our public schools.

The legislation (2019-S 0198) that I have sponsored to correct this issue would establish dual-language immersion program funding and would create a world language and dual-language immersion specialist position at the Rhode Island Department of Education to spearhead this educational effort in our state. You may ask, other languages are already taught at our schools so why is this instruction needed?

Dual-language immersion (DLI) is very different and far more intensive than the traditional high school Spanish class. DLI programs educate students using both English and a second language for all instruction during the day. In some programs, the educational day may even be broken up so that all lessons are taught in either language. Also, one of the most important aspects of DLI programs is starting our children young so that their multi-lingual skills grow over the course of their educational career. DLI programs are for English language speakers, English learners, special needs students and advanced students. The benefits of these programs apply to every type of student in Rhode Island’s schools.

The demand for DLI programs is quite high too. For the limited programs already established in Rhode Island, nine out of Rhode Island’s 306 public schools, there are two students competing for the same seat in the program. That is because there is an abundance of proof and evidence that these programs work.

We as a state have made tremendous investments in our children’s education of late; yet, we are still continually undervaluing the crucial importance of investing in DLI programs. Our world and economies are more likely than not to become even more connected in the future so it is imperative that we give our children the tools, knowledge and capabilities to communicate with people from across the globe. Businesses are already favoring prospective employees with multi-lingual backgrounds and we will be doing a complete disservice to our children if we allow them to enter the workforce without these prized and valued language skills.

Our job as a society is to protect and prepare our children for success in the future and this will only be possible if we establish dual-language immersion programs for all of our students. Our children and their futures deserve this educational opportunity and I ask all of you to join me in advocating for this important piece of legislation that will benefit every single child in Rhode Island.

Sen. Frank A. Ciccone, a Democrat, represents District 7 in Providence and North Providence. He is also the chair of the Senate Labor Committee.

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