February 2019: Filipino Dual Language Immersion Program

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Kapitbahay Times recently interviewed Mary Ann Masagca about the Filipino Dual Language Immersion Program initiative at Bessie Carmichael Pre-K to 8 School. Originally from the Philippines and now residing in SOMA, Mary Ann is the mother of two children attending Bessie, where she serves as the Chair of the English Language Learners Advisory Committee.

What is the Filipino Dual Language Immersion Program?

The Filipino Dual Language Immersion Program is envisioned as a free program at Bessie Carmichael School. One elective class in Filipino will be offered at every grade level, all the way up to 5th grade (with hopes to be eventually expanded up to 8th grade). The program will not only immerse students in the Filipino language, but also provide ample opportunities for students to explore the historical and cultural aspects of the Filipino-American community and of the Philippines.

Bessie Carmichael holds special significance for the San Francisco Filipino-American community. It has been the site of local activism, and has long been an important resource for newcomer families. In 2017-18, Filipinos represented 31.5% of the total student body.

Feasibility Study

If approved, the program will be the first of its kind in the entire country. Before it can be implemented, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will need to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study.

An initial survey was sent out to community members to get their opinion of the program. The results from parents and students came in as followed:

  • 80% answered yes to the feasibility study to further explore the incorporation of the program

  • 12.9% answered undecided to the incorporation of the program

  • 7.1% completely opposed the incorporation of the program.

Another important factor of the feasibility study is to actually have enough qualified teachers for the program. Currently there are only six BCLAD-certified (Bilingual, Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) teachers in the district.

Program Admission Requirements

There are several prerequisites for a student to be considered for the program:

  1. Enrollment at Bessie Carmichael

  2. Ability to speak Filipino

  3. Pass an entrance exam

Completing these steps does not necessarily guarantee a student a spot in the program. Admission will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Why is It Important?

For Mary Ann, the Filipino Dual Language Immersion Program is important for her American children to be able to retain their cultural identity and heritage. She believes it is important to learn the history and language of your ancestors to carry with you through life and for future generations to come. She also believes that being bilingual helps cultivate intellectual capacity as well as empathy towards people from different backgrounds.

How to Get Involved

The SFUSD needs to hear from parents and students who are excited about the program! Community members can get involved by spreading the word to prospective students and teachers. If you were formerly a teacher in the Philippines before migrating to the United States, you can become recertified through the BCLAD (Bilingual, Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) training program. Teachers can receive the BCLAD authorization as part of the Multiple Subject Credential Program or through successful passage of the state BCLAD test. For questions or further information about BCLAD certification, please contact Leni Juarez at 415-385-8546 or lenijuarez@gmail.com.

Feb 2019Brandon Balidio