E.g., 07/22/2014
E.g., 07/22/2014

Language Policies and Practices for Helping Immigrants and Second-Generation Students Succeed

Policy Briefs
September 2007

Language Policies and Practices for Helping Immigrants and Second-Generation Students Succeed

In this policy brief, the authors analyze the effectiveness of school language policies across 14 immigrant-receiving countries. They examine various methods countries have adopted to help immigrant students gain proficiency in the language of instruction, identify contexts that seem to elicit positive outcomes for these students, and provide recommendations based on programs that accomplish relatively small achievement gaps between second-language learners and native speakers.

Authors estimate that more than half a grade level separates immigrant students who do and do not speak the language of instruction at home. They find that most countries offer immersion programs—as opposed to bilingual instruction—with varying degrees of language and cultural support. Among these programs, time-intensive Australian, Canadian, and Swedish models stand out as examples of success due to their explicit program requirements, standardized curricula, alignment with the mainstream curriculum, and advanced training of second language instructors. In the less systematic programs of Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium, immigrant students seem to perform at significantly lower levels in comparison to their native peers.

Best practice recommendations drawn from these cross-country comparisons include: making long‐term investments in systematic language support programs; ensuring that programs are guided by standardized principles, goals, and benchmark measures; and training teachers in second‐language acquisition in both implicit and explicit language support.