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Letter: Bilingual education is misunderstood

This file photo shows an LI classroom on

This file photo shows an LI classroom on March 23, 2011. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

The letters published on Monday made it plain that the public doesn't understand bilingual education ["Separate languages divide the country"].

The aim of bilingual education is to teach in two languages. On Long Island, that means English and the native language of the student. You use the dominant language of the student to maintain his or her skills in subjects such as math, science and social studies, while the student spends much of the school day learning English.

As English skills improve, more instruction can be given in English. Students still supplement classroom teaching by learning English from their peers and the media. The perfect outcome is a student who is literate in both languages. Most students -- and their parents -- are eager to learn English so they can assimilate into life in the United States.

The second letter mentioned a fear that the Regents exams might be given in other languages. According to the state Education Department website, tests are available in nine languages. They were available in several languages when I started teaching in 1974. The available languages change as the student population changes.

My grandparents came from Poland and had to struggle to learn English. Bilingual education is meant to ease that struggle. Having more bilingual people in our population would be an asset in the global economy.

Kathleen Williams-Ging, Huntington Station

Editor's note: The writer is a retired teacher with a master's degree is bilingual education.