Education: The Three Rs in 70 Tongues

Debating the uses of bilingual instruction

Imagine a school with 2,617 students culled from 57 different countries and cultures. In one classroom, the teacher copies the word farming on a blackboard —first in English, from left to right, and then in Assyrian, from right to left. A susurrus of Chinese rises from a history class. Soft Spanish vowels punctuate a science lesson. A model international academy? Hardly. It is Chicago's Nicholas Senn High School on the city's ethnically mixed North Side, where foreign-born students enroll in special bilingual programs that allow them to...

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