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Bilingual Education Models 

A classic definition of bilingual education provided by Andersson and Boyer: Bilingual education is instruction in two languages and the use of those two languages as mediums of instruction for any part, or all, of the school curriculum. (1970, p.12). First, bilingual education programs can be defined as either subtractive or additive. Additive bilingual program fosters longer-term student bilingualism and bilaterally by adding another language to the student’s existing language repertoire. Subtractive bilingual program shift students to monolingualism in the dominant language, replacing one language with another. According to Freeman (1988, p.3) bilingual models are defined in terms of ‘their language-planning goals and ideological orientations towards linguistic and cultural diversity in society.’ There are a few types of bilingual models:


Transitional bilingual model is labeled as two languages, children’s native languages and the dominant language, are used in classroom instruction only until the children can make the transition to receiving all instruction in the dominant language. The goal of this model is to rapidly transition to the mainstream classroom by using the dominant language of the school system (in the U.S.: English language learners (ELL)’s) native language as a bridge to acquiring English literacy--see U.S. Bilingual Education). The aim is not the maintenance of the native language; to the degree they do, they aim to develop bilaterally, but only to the degree of bi-literacy needed to make a transition to literacy in dominant language. Maintenance bilingual model aims to maintain the minority language of the student. This model strengthens the student’s sense of cultural and linguistic diversity. The language of instruction will be either predominantly in L1 or both L1 and L2. Early exit model offers initial instruction in the primary language which is usually limited to initial reading instruction and used to support students for clarification. Subtractive bilingualism occurs in this model, as it does not permit complete development of the primary language. Late-exit model offers minimum of forty percent of their instructional time in the primary language in language arts, reading and core subject areas. In bilingual immersion models, dual language instruction is used that promotes bi-literacy by immersing second language learners into content instruction in two languages. Typically a minimum of fifty percent of curriculum is devoted to each of the two languages. Two-way dual language model is different from bilingual immersion model. Classes have mixed enrollment of native speakers and second language learners. Both learners are aiming for bilingualism and bi-literacy. It allows for fully developing literacy in both languages. Variations among models occur, as the program is adjusted to suit the context of particular school or community. See Dual Language Immersion.


Intercultural Development Research Association


Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence


Office of English Language Acquisition



Dual Language Immersion and Bilingual education


Andersson, T. and Boyer, M.: 1970, Bilingual Schooling in the United States: Vol. 1,

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Austin, TX.

Baker. C. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (Clevedon Avon, England, Philadelphia, PA, USA: Multilingual Matters, 1993).

Freeman, R.: 1998, Bilingual Education and Social Change, Multilingual Matters,


Genesee, F. Learning through Two Languages: Studies of Immersion and Bilingual Education (Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House, 1987).

May, S., Hill, R., and Tiakiwai, S.: 2004, Bilingual/Immersion Education: Indicators of Good Practice. Final Report to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Education, Wellington. Retrieved from

May, S. (2008). Bilingual/immersion education: What the research tells us. Encyclopedia of language and education, 5, 19-34.

Roberts, C. A. (1995). Bilingual education program models: A framework for understanding. Bilingual Research Journal, 19(3-4), 369-378.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T.: 1981, Bilingualism or Not: The Education of Minorities, Multilingual

Matters, Clevedon.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Hyun, Jungwon. (2015). Bilingual Education Models. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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