UF Survey Finds Bilingual Instruction Supported By A Majority Of Floridians
Author: Helios Education FoundationJuly 19, 2015
While researchers debate the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, Floridians seem to recognize the practical advantages of speaking more than one language. In fact, 67 percent of Floridians surveyed by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research support requiring Spanish language instruction in Florida public schools.
“Overall reactions to the notion that Spanish should be a required subject in public schools was far less polarized and more popular than we imagined,” said Chris McCarty, director of the University Of Florida Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which conducted the survey. Fluency in more than one language, Spanish or another language, is in line with the needs of a global economy. As international markets become increasingly integrated and future economic growth is predicated on workers’ ability to communicate via multiple platforms, multilingualism will move from an advantage to a necessity.
Given the demographic profile of the state of Florida, an assumption might be drawn that Spanish language instruction is exclusively favored in South Florida with weaning support from around the state. When asked their level of support for the statement “Should Spanish language instruction be required in Florida public schools”, 72 percent of South Florida residents answered “strongly agree” or “agree”. While that percentage led the state, other regions also showed majority support: North Florida, 66 percent; Central Florida, 63 percent and Southwest Florida, 62 percent.
As outlined by Accredited Language in June 2015, Spanish ranks only behind Mandarin among the world’s most common languages. Its prominence in the Americas as well as in Europe makes Spanish one of the most common languages, with 405 million speakers. The challenge to implementing Spanish-language instruction as a requirement in Florida schools centers around funding and instruction time. However, many individuals feel that the cost of implementation is outweighed by the value a second language brings to the individual and ultimately the economy.
Empowering our students with 21st century skills is not exclusive to instruction in science, technology, engineering and math, rather the greatest advantage we can grant our students is the ability to communicate those outstanding skills.