Bilingual Instruction Grows in Puerto Rico

Governor Fortuño is working toward a bold program of bilingual instruction in Puerto Rico’s schools, mandating coursework in both the island’s official languages for all courses except history. The program is currently in a dozen schools, and is expected to roll out into first grade classrooms in 31 more schools, reaching all of Puerto Rico’s public schools soon. The program’s stated goal is to reach full bilingualism among children in Puerto Rico by 2022.

According to the BBC’s William Marquez, some question Fortuño’s motivation. “[S]ome of his critics,” the report claims, “accuse him of trying to impose a US-centric political agenda, especially in an election-year that will see a referendum on the island’s relationship with the country.”

Fortuño was quoted in nj.com last month as saying that his plan is intended to improve Puerto Rico’s economic position. “Bilingualism opens doors and provides opportunity to our children so they can shine and become successful in a labor market that is increasingly competitive and globalized,” he said.

English is the language of business not only in the United States, but internationally, providing a lingua franca for the increasingly global economy of the world. A study by The Next Web (infographic by Voxy) shows that English is also still the language of the internet, used about 3.5 times more often than Spanish.

The initiative to teach English in Puerto Rican schools mirrors the growing awareness of the importance of foreign language instruction in schools throughout the fifty states, beginning in elementary school and continuing through college.  Spanish is the most commonly studied foreign language in the U.S.

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