Anthony David Martinez raises his hand in class at the Escuela 20 Noviembre school in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/NPR
When Mexican immigrants return to their homeland, their U.S.-born children struggle in Mexican schools, reports Claudio Sanchez for NPR.
Most were labeled English Language Learners in U.S. schools because they don’t read or write proficiently in English. But they’re not literate in Spanish either.
In the last eight years, nearly 500,000 children — 90 percent American born — have returned to Mexico with their families, estimates UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. Some immigrants left because of the economic downturn. Others were deported.
Patricia Gandara, co-chair of the Civil Rights Project, thinks Mexican educators should learn from the U.S. experience with English-only and bilingual education.
In Mexican schools, the goal is to transition children as quickly as possible to Spanish fluency — because it’s the only language that matters. We’ve tried to estimate the percentage of classroom teachers in Mexico who speak English at a level that they can communicate with these [U.S.-born] kids, and found that fewer than 5 percent in public schools across [Mexico] can communicate with these children.
U.S. educators build on children’s “primary language,” says Gandara. She wants Mexican schools to assess U.S. returnees in their primary language, English.
In the U.S., these students were treated as though Spanish was their primary language.
The children of poorly educated parents often lack well-developed skills and vocabulary in any language; they’re also weak on general knowledge about the world. No es el lenguaje estúpido. You can figure out what that means because you’re educated readers.