Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, July 16, 1997

Letter to the Editor

  Ruben Navarette Jr.'s portrayal of public opinion on bilingual education (Opinion, July 6) is not quite accurate. He claimed that in the Times poll, "83% of Latino parents . . . favor English-language instruction as soon as their children begin school, while only 17% support native-language instruction." Here is the question asked, and the results:
     "Which of the following do you most prefer for teaching students who speak limited English?" Among Latinos, 57% answered "mostly English with some help in their native language," 26% answered "only in English as soon as they enroll in school," and 17% answered "native language until they are ready to learn English."
     This data needs to be interpreted carefully. Few supporters of bilingual education would choose the third option, which appears to call for no English exposure at all at the beginning. In other words, only 17% of the Latino respondents supported an extreme version of bilingual education. In addition, only 26% preferred programs with no instruction in the first language.
     Most experts on bilingual education recommend a program that includes English from the beginning, and moves children into more English instruction as they are ready for it. The first option is not exactly this kind of program, but it is the closest among the three options, and it received the most support.