Addressing Barriers for Multilingual Students


Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.

As a STEM community, we know that our economically disadvantaged students, minorities, females, and disabled students continue to face barriers. However, as we continue our mission to ensure success in STEM for every student, there is another quickly growing group of students we need to consider: multilingual students. These learners have their own unique barriers and needs, and they must be included in our efforts to address learning gaps actively.

Meet America’s Multilingual Student Population

Approximately 5 million multilingual students are in U.S. classrooms today. It’s the fastest-growing student group. What is a multilingual learner? It’s a student who speaks more than one language at home. Over the years, we have seen many educational programs geared toward Spanish-to-English learners, but the multilingual student population is much more diverse than that. This group includes English language proficiency of varying levels and many different types of languages. The top five native languages for multilingual learners in the U.S. are Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole.

These students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. Some are immigrants, and some are refugees. Despite stereotypes, the majority of English learner students are born in the U.S. They come from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, but many come from more disadvantaged areas.  Read more…

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