Supplementary education is good for bilingual children
A never ending string of research papers shows the benefits for children who receive a good foundation in their heritage language and culture.
Being able to speak one language fluently and with confidence is the basis on which further languages are acquired, writing and reading skills transfer between languages and there is a plethora of additional cognitive and wellbeing benefits connected to being bilingual and firmly grounded in a bilingual identity.
Supplementary education is good for parents and families
Most parents want to be able to talk to their children in the language in which they can express themselves best. Even when children at some point only use the environment language, parents often continue to speak to them in their heritage language, out of need, want or as a conscious decision.
Also, the child’s wider family may not be fluent in its other language or not understand it at all. In these cases the heritage language is the only gateway for children to be able to communicate with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and learn about their roots.
Supplementary education is good for the community
Parents who set up groups and schools for their bilingual children find themselves interacting with wider circles in mainstream society. They have to look for a place to run their group, set up a bank account, write policies and procedures, learn about insurance and taxes, finally incorporate their groups and take up training on safeguarding. Frequently, the teaching is done by parents without a regular background in teaching who learn and train on the job.
Parents gain the skill set similar of an entrepreneur as essentially they are running a small sized social enterprise, while a number of teachers who started in a supplementary school study and become teachers in mainstream schools.
Supplementary education is good for mainstream schools
It is no news news to teachers with an interest in English as an Additional Language (EAL) that some of the brightest students in their schools are multilingual, performing highly not only in languages, but in maths and other subjects as well.
Bilingual children who receive instructions on reading and writing in their home languages are excellent candidates for achieving high grades in GCSE and A Level language examinations. These children have spent their whole lives learning their home languages in real live and supplementary schools, and therefore have a wide vocabulary, advanced grammar and often highly developed meta-linguistic understanding.
Supplementary education is good for the country
The ability to speak foreign languages and interact culturally appropriately with people with international backgrounds is needed in many areas of business, society and public life in the UK. Teachers welcome new students and parents, healthcare workers need to understand their patients’ complaints, members of the judicial system interact with witnesses, victims and perpetrators. Research and trade are big in the UK and crucially dependent on connections, trust and collaborations as speaking the partner’s language and understanding their culture help enormously in laying the foundations.
Bilingually and bi-culturally educated children are in a unique position to fulfill these needs in particular in languages that are not usually taught and studied in mainstream schools.