Bilingual pupils are premier league

27th March 2009 at 00:00

The recent statements from Damian Green, shadow education minister, on bilingual learners in our classrooms has led to a predictable response from the tabloids, which present these children as a problem for "other" learners and teachers in the classroom ("The week", March 20). This is both wrong and unhelpful.

We need to recognise that over 50 per cent of the world now routinely use more than one language in their daily lives and some 85 per cent are able to function in at least two. In a global sense these "problem" children are, in fact, the norm, and in a global economy they are potentially an asset, not a drain. We are particularly lucky in the UK that some of our highest-achieving students come from bilingual Indian and Chinese families as these are the two economies that are set to dominate the post-recession landscape.

Far from bemoaning their presence in our classrooms, we should be celebrating their gifts and investing in their - and therefore our - future success. The Government has increased spending in this area, for which they should be applauded, but it still stands at only some Pounds 200 million, which may sound a lot but is less than the joint wages bill at Arsenal and Manchester United.

Surely we can do better than that for these premier league students?

Dr Frank Monaghan, Senior lecturer in education, The Open University.

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