One tongue or two?

Concerns that a multilingual learning environment may confuse students and harm their learning are unfounded, according to a meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Luxembourg.

The review investigated the effectiveness of bilingual programmes for academic achievement in language-minority children in Europe. Similar reviews have been conducted in North America, but not previously in Europe.

The meta-analysis combined data from five European studies and revealed a small positive effect (g=0.23) on academic achievement, including reading, for language-minority children educated bilingually compared with those who experience submersion programmes (which use only the majority language).

The authors say that their analysis supports the importance of bilingual education. They note that the small number of included studies limit the extent to which their findings could be generalised to other settings. They call for further studies and closer attention to the size of the effects.

Effect sizes in the analysis are in line with previous meta-analyses in the United States, such as those of Slavin and Cheung, which also found small positive effects in support of bilingual programmes when compared with monolingual education.

Source: A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of bilingual programs in Europe (2014), Review of Educational Research

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