The Department of Education proposes to initiate a multi disciplinary. Integrated plan that includes several instruction alternatives conducive to create bilingual citizens. In this way, we prepare students to react to the chailenges of the third millennium by helping them find their place in a society characterized by a global economy. Students will be able to develop thinking and communication skills in the Spanish and English languages, and will also develop their sensibility, with ethical-moral principles which will turn them into positive and productive human beings with high self-esteem, with respect toward their family, their culture, and people of other cultures.
We recognize that in Puerto Rico there is a bilingual situation. There are social, cultural, intellectual, technological, economic, and political reasons that demand and require the use of the English language. Likewise, it is widely understood that the result of efforts to teach English in the public school system have not been the expected ones. Our students, as opposed to those graduating from the private schools, are not prepared to communicate in English.
Historically, there have been policy changes in the teaching of English, bur this plan is different in the fact that it will be carried out by strengthening both languages: Spanish and English. The student will be able to benefit from the syntactic and semantic relations in both languages and will be able to develop his capacity to communicate with propriety in both languages; in other words she/he will become a bilingual citizen. This is an innovative and far-reaching plan that integrates three (3) academic disciplines. Another foundation which contributes to the decision of the Department of Education is to initiate a new focus on the instruction of English from the wide variety of studies made by linguists and educator who best speak of the academic and social benefits of the bilingual student. In this Plan, more than 20 recent studies are cited. In addition, it is based on studies carried out in Puerto Rico, such as doctoral dissertations and the expressions of renowned and distinguished educators who have warned us of the need to coordinate positive and assertive action to solve the lack of knowledge of he English language.
The Plan leads to several action alternatives. It will be developed in stages and by levels. It is a process. The main priority is focused on the levels from kindergarten to third grade in which technology through the use of the computer will be integrated. There are seven (7) main aspects: (1) intensive reading, (2) block scheduling of 90 minutes for Spanish arid English classes, (3) integration of English into Science and Mathematics, (4) laboratory immersion periods, (5) teachers' professional development (6) teachers' exchange program (7) revision and enrichment of approaches regarding instruction and supervision.
First: Reading in Spanish and English is highlighted by the fact that kindergarten is already a formal study grade. From the beginning students are motivated to love and enjoy reading. Emphasis is given to creative and active reading extended to all classes and all grades. Fist grade student are expected to read in Spanish and be initiated in English reading during their second semester.
Second: Schools are encouraged to develop a flexible schedule by assigning 90 minutes study block for the Spanish and English classes. This alternative will be carried throughout the intermediate level. Teachers will be able to integrate the fine arts and conversation sessions thus providing a language laboratory, where students can develop communication skills and carry on conversations and benefit from other resources in English.
Third: Efforts will be made to integrate Science, Mathematics and English classes in the use of a diversity of books. Discussions based on English readings will carried-on, and the same procedure will be followed in Spanish. The teacher, with the his/her educational autonomy, will select books for English and Spanish. The idea is, since Science and Mathematics are courses of worldwide importance, students ought to learn and understand basic concepts in both languages. If they should ever travel and study in schools in the United States, they should not encounter any difficulties in these two subjects. This shall be initiated in schools in which Project PR-SSI is implemented and in schools that are willing to implemented it.
Fourth: High school students will enjoy language
laboratory activities in English by
Fifth: Already initiated is the consideration given to the teachers' professional development for English teachers that are not yet certified. Almost 10,000 teachers, each English, but only a little over 50% are certified. This is more critical in the elementary level since teachers are prepared at the Universities as teachers; not as English teachers. Only two universities out of over thirty prepare elementary English teachers and these are very few. At the high school level there is a concentration in English (TESOL or TESS): "Teachers of English for Students of other Languages" or "Teachers of English for Spanish Speakers." As mentioned above, we have stressed as our priority the change that ought to rake place at the Kindergarten to third grade levels in which teachers will be encouraged and be given assistance to become proficient in this area.
Sixth: The teachers, exchange program is established
with a dual objective. Puerto
Seventh: The approaches for teaching and supervising,
will be revised to emphasize
In summary, this is an integrated, far-reaching, sequential project favored by myriads of alternatives. Teachers will undergo constant professional development and students will develop integrally with the ability to use both Spanish and English with distinction and propriety.