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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 17:30 GMT
Hispanic pupils' soaring drop-out rate
Hispanic
Hispanic pupils are the fastest-growing ethnic group in US schools
Hispanic pupils are three times as likely as white pupils to drop out of high school, says a study by the United States Education Department.

In response, Education Secretary Richard Riley has called for the opening of an additional thousand dual-language schools, which can teach in both Spanish and English.

The study, which reveals that many Hispanic children are missing out on education, is published as separate statistics show that they are now the fastest-growing community within the school population.


Richard Riley
Richard Riley wants a thousand more dual language schools
In New Mexico, the Hispanic community now represents 48% of the school population, in California, 40.5% and in Texas, 38%.

The figures also show that drop-out rates are affecting Hispanic pupils more adversely than other ethnic groups - twice as high as for black pupils.

There are also lower levels of Hispanic students getting degrees than other ethnic groups.

The education secretary says that greater attention needs to be paid to offering dual-language schools that value Spanish as well as English.

"If we see to it that immigrants and their children can speak only English and nothing more, then we will have missed one of the greatest opportunities of this new century. It is high time we begin to treat language skills as the asset they are," said Mr Riley.

"Unfortunately, too many teachers and administrators today treat a child's native language as a weakness if it is not English."

"It is time to move beyond the stereotype of a child who is not fluent in English as one who is not intelligent or cannot learn. Occasionally, children are separated from their peers, and even inappropriately identified for special education services simply because English is not their native language."

Dual-language

There have been long-running debates about the advantages and disadvantages of all-English, all-Spanish and bi-lingual schools.

All-Spanish schools have been criticised as limiting the opportunities for students to become sufficiently proficient in English. And all-English schools have been seen as failing to take into account the home languages of Spanish-speaking pupils.

In dual-language schools, all subjects can be taught in be both languages, with pupils inter-changing between languages throughout the day.

However there have been complaints that in practice dual language schools have a very high proportion of Spanish-speaking students - which helps English-speaking pupils to learn Spanish, but has less benefits for Spanish speakers.

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