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Seattle meets its refugees -- bilingually

This school year finds some 3,000 pupils in the Seattle public schools for whom English is not their primary language. The majority of these students are refugees from Indochina.

Seattle has three quite seprate bilingual programs in place.

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One is an Orientation School for those children who come with either no or very limited English and need a full day's program in English, and some serious work with basic skills. Many of these youngsters have had no school at all, or very little.

The situation in their home nations has been so disrupted (famine, war, displacement, etc.) that schooling was a luxury they could not afford. Now that they are settled (at least temporarily) in the US, an orientation, the Seattle school system feels, is of primary importance.

The second program is situated in a Newcomer Center. Here, students are given intensive English instruction for half a day and attend a regular Seattle public school for the remainder of the day.

But the majority of students are in the 31 bilingual/multilingual centers where ESL (English as a second language) classes are given and regular school subjects are taught with the aid of adults who are bilingual.

It would be possible, therefore, for a refugee to arrive in Seattle and be accomodated first in the Orientation School, then next in a bilingual center, be given a part-time taste of regular schooling in a Newcomer Center, and finally, "graduate" to a regular school taking all classes in English and with n o bilingual support from special aids.

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