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Chinese-Americans Protest in Favor of Bilingual Education
From The World Journal

June 10, 2003

Appealing to retain bilingual classes in Seward Park High School, around 200 people protested in front of City Hall on the afternoon of June 9. They included City Council members, educators, community leaders, and teachers, students and parents from Seward Park High School. They held posters and leaflets reading “Bilingual education is a channel for new immigrants to enter the mainstream society,” “Only using English in education is racial discrimination,” “We will not disappoint your expectations for bilingual education.” The protestors maintained that new immigrants should be educated regardless of their race and social status.

City Councilmember John Liu pointed out that the purpose of bilingual education is not to teach English, but to enable students to learn mathematics, geographies, physics and other subjects in their native languages. Eng Tan-tin, chairperson of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New York, and other community representatives emphasized the importance of bilingual education for immigrant students and asked the city Education Department to ensure that it would provide bilingual education to children of the Chinese-American neighborhoods. Tsu Bien-shu, board member of the National Association of Bilingual Education, emphasized that Seward Park High School currently has the largest high school Chinese-English bilingual program in the United States. She said, “It should become the model of bilingual education to serve new immigrant students.”

For Zhao Xiao Ting, who is a tenth grade student at Seward Park High School, the availability of bilingual education is important. When she was studying in a bilingual class in her ninth grade, her average score was in the 90s on every subject. Yet, after she was put into the Immersion Program in tenth grade, “because there were too many English vocabularies to be remembered, my scores suddenly dropped to the 80s.” According to her, many of her classmates failed the class for the same reasons. They were transferred back to the bilingual class after 26 students complained to the school principle. With bilingual education, Zhao’s scores increased again.


For Zhen Hui Qing, a ninth grade student from Fuzhou living in the United States for about one year, has a younger brother studying at M.S. 131. “Seward Park is currently not receiving students. My family is very worried about him. He only speaks a little bit of English. We don’t know whether he can adapt to such circumstances,” he said. Shelley Rappaport, a policy analyst for Hispanic Federation, indicated that high school students in bilingual education in New York State still had 51.4 percent in 1997, but now there is only 40.7 percent.

This shows that bilingual education is gradually disappearing because of the declining governmental funding. And she said, “we now even don’t know what bilingual education will be like next year.”

According to Tsu-Ying, who is in charge of Asian American communication for the city Department of Education, acknowledged in an e-mail that the department understands the necessities of bilingual education for Chinese speakers learning English and will consider the needs of communities. In addition, there will be new standards for faculties and curriculums when the school is reorganized.

Seward Park High School Parent-Teacher Association vice-president Zhang Zi-Dong asked Councilman John Liu to pass on 340-parent letters to the mayor and schools chancellor.

Translated from Chinese by Michael Huang

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