Immigration is an incredibly controversial topic right now. The United States government is especially challenged when it comes to children; right now the government is struggling to formulate proper and humane policy to deal with hundreds of children crossing over the Mexican border without their parents. Education and English language classes are only the tip of the iceberg for these young refugees; they need room and board as well as medical care. When entire immigrant families come to the United States, they generally have very important reasons for leaving their native countries. They may come to reunite with other family members, political persecution in their native countries, or to improve their socioeconomic conditions through work opportunities. Whatever the reason for their immigration, their children need to be helped to integrate into American society.
This assimilation of the children is crucial to the family for several reasons. For some lower income families, the children may be the only ones who actually learn the new language. They will become liaisons between their parents or grandparents and the new country. The English language is not an easy one with all of its semantics, phonetics and other nuances. Language classes should be provided for free in the interest of making the transnational transition smoother for the families. If the children will ultimately become ambassadors of sorts for their families, then their free language classes benefit the community and the society as well. The children of professional immigrants, expatriates who have been selected by their corporations to relocate internationally, do not have to worry about access to free language classes. Their parents are able to pay a fee for these services, or their parents’ employers may add these services as part of the benefits of making the move.
Many critics argue against the cost of providing language instruction or pre-school services for free; they worry that this is an extra strain on an already overburdened school system. The benefits of the language instruction for younger children is cost effective when compared to providing those same services when an individual reaches grade school, high school or college level. Providing such services earlier reduces the need for English as a Second Language (ESL) later on. Early language instruction also produces a group of bilingual citizens. In our increasingly global world, more and more bilingual workers are needed, especially in the areas of health care and computer technology. Helping these children become bilingual early in life gives them a valuable skill set they can use later on to help them acquire gainful employment when they mature. Again, the investment of language instruction early on, eases the cost of their unemployment later in life.
As far as the pre-school attendance is concerned, pre-school- meaning kindergarten or Pre-K classes, are available for free through the United States Board of Education for all students meeting the age requirement. Space is limited in the public school system, however, and a set number of seats should be reserved for the children of immigrants. School is the premier socialization tool for societies, and apart from learning the language, there is a cultural element that children are socialized to in school that is very important they understand for their successful adjustment to the American way of life. Again, professional expatriates brought over by their corporations can afford to pay for preschool education for their children, as well they should. For the professional or upper middle class families, paid pre-school may be more attractive than waiting for a seat in the public school system. Economic status should not be a barrier for immigrant parents to be able to provide ore-school education for their children. Those parents who cannot afford private school should have an opportunity to expose their children to early childhood education in this country. As stated earlier, money invested in children’s education is money saved later on in their lives.
Cultural adjustment is another important feature of both early childhood education and language instruction for children. It is up to the adults in the immigrant families to preserve the culture of their native countries to the degree that they see fit. Their children will certainly be immersed in the culture of the United States. This occurs through the prevalence of pop culture that is magnified through television, music, social media and even commercials. There is also national culture, or the nation’s grand narrative version of history that is taught in schools to encourage patriotism.
In conclusion, countries have different perspectives on historic events, and children may experience some conflict in this area between their own culture and history and what they are being taught. Again, their parents can be very helpful in clarifying any issues or confusion they may have, and it is important for them to learn the culture of their host country. Free access to language instruction and pre-school education is desirable for the immigrant families as well as for society itself. Any expenditures in this area will pay off in the future with reduced need for ESL courses, a ready segment of bilingual potential workers, and less unemployment among second generation immigrants. Professional expatriates who can pay for their children’s service should, but money cannot be a barrier to education in this country.