In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bilingual Education

  • Introduction
  • Educating Language-Minoritized Students and English-Language Learners
  • Latinx-Specific Studies
  • Language, Culture, and Power in Educating Latinxs
  • Raciolinguistic Ideologies
  • Effects on Latinx Achievement
  • Two-Way Immersion Bilingual Education and Latinxs
  • Latinx Students’ Perceptions on Bilingualism

Latino Studies Bilingual Education
Luz Y. Herrera, Ofelia García, Carla España
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0069


“Bilingual education” refers to the use of two languages in education for different purposes. In the United States, bilingual education has been used to educate Latinxs throughout history, especially after the passage of the Bilingual Education Act (1968) and the judicial decision of Lau v. Nichols 1974 that followed in the civil rights era. Sometimes bilingual education aims to develop both the English and the Spanish of Latinxs, but often its sole aim is to ensure that Latinxs who are new to English understand the subject matter and learn English well. Bilingual education programs for Latinxs are usually classified in three types. (1) Developmental maintenance bilingual education aims to make Latinx students bilingual and biliterate and is available regardless of language proficiency. (2) Transitional bilingual education is available only to those who are considered “English-language learners” (here referred to as “emergent bilinguals”) until they can show proficiency in English. (3) Two-way bilingual education programs (often called “dual language”) are available to a balanced number of Latinxs who are developing English and students who are English speakers, and also aim to make students bilingual and biliterate in each other’s language, under a policy of strictly separating the two languages. Developmental maintenance bilingual education programs fell into disfavor in the 1970s because of fears of Latinx linguistic and cultural autonomy. Even transitional bilingual education programs, supported by the Bilingual Education Act since 1974, were under attack. However, two-way bilingual education programs are growing slowly. While Arizona’s ban on bilingual education still stands today, both California and Massachusetts have overturned their bilingual education ban after legislative moves that reversed Proposition 227 in 2016 and Question 2 in 2017, respectively. The greater support for two-way bilingual programs has to do with the inclusion of language-majority children. For Latinx children, these programs are often the only way to develop their biliteracy, and many so-called dual language programs are really “one-way” programs, constituted solely of Latinx students at different points on the bilingual continuum. Despite their promises, dual-language bilingual education programs have a policy of separating the two languages strictly, and often they do not leverage the bilingual language practices of bilingual communities—what some call “translanguaging.” Latinxs were the focus of bilingual education literature in the United States throughout the second half of the twentieth century, and bilingual education was understood as an instrument for their educational equity. But with the emphasis on English-language acquisition under No Child Left Behind, and an increasing number of immigrants from different language groups, the focus of the bilingual education literature has changed from Latinxs to the more general focus on English-language learners. In this article, “Latinx” is used as a more inclusive, gender-neutral term to address people of Latin American and Caribbean descent.

General Works

A number of works offer a general introduction to bilingual education, not specifically targeting Latinxs. They are included here because they are important foundational resources, providing important syntheses of research on bilingual education, as well as policies and practices.

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