How does bilingual education prepare students for the future?

Amidst changing demands for modern workforces and an increasingly globalized world, the World Economic Forum has produced a report, “The Future of Jobs,” that looks at what future employees will need to stay competitive. In particular, the report listed the top 10 skills that workers will need in 2020, that will help them respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will bring about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and genomics, as well as new jobs along with them. These skills are important to develop within your child at an early stage for their future, to set them up for success in whatever industry they’ll end up in.

Among these skills are cognitive flexibility, defined in the report as “The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways,” as well as emotional intelligence, in turn defined as “Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.” And one of the best ways to instill both skills in your child is through bilingualism in their education.

Bilingual benefits

Studies have shown that bilingual students generally do better in school, have better problem-solving skills, and are more proficient in both their spoken languages. On top of that, bilingual children have been found to be more empathetic, and had better social skills and capacity to understand the intentions and perspectives of others, due to the multifarious considerations of context required when speaking to different people of different mother tongues. Even children who were merely exposed to another language had already developed improvements in these skills.

Other studies have shown that bilingualism improves children’s executive function, which include a variety of basic cognitive processes such as working memory and cognitive flexibility. Bilingual people are also found to be superior at tasks which involve the resolution of cognitive conflicts.

And it’s not just about mental intelligence. There are marked sociocultural benefits as well. Multilingualism helps children develop their cultural intelligence, or their capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. Bilingualism allows them to embrace the full extent of the cultural diversity that exists in this world. They can understand on an intuitive level that we are all unique individuals, with different culturally defining backgrounds and that the world can be seen and described in different ways.

Looking to the future, and not just in the sense of the top 10 skills, studies have shown two direct benefits – depending on the region, bilingual workers make anywhere between 1.5 to 7 percent more than monolingual ones. Surveyed managers also believe that better communication across borders would improve their business.

How to achieve bilingual education

One of the best ways to give your child this crucial bilingual education is to enroll them in a school that not only has a bilingual curriculum, but also presents a diverse and multicultural environment that will expose them to many different perspectives.

And it’s important that you get your children started early. MIT professor Joshua Hartshorne says, “If you want to have native-like knowledge of English grammar you should start by about 10 years old. We don’t see very much difference between people who start at birth and people who start at 10, but we start seeing a decline after that.” Other cognitive scientists peg the so-called “critical period” between the ages of 6 and 16.

Studies have shown that children who are educated in a multilingual setting are more apt to learn new languages later on in life. Multilingual minds have been found to be more nimble and adaptable, they are better problem solvers and have better memories. Their ability for planning, impulse, focus and learning to discard irrelevant information is enhanced. The bilingual brain is more flexibile, it switches back and forth between two languages and allows children to think and speak in each language versus translating between languages.

Swiss International School Dubai provides both of these through its well-rounded bilingual curriculum, taught in both German and English. It also provides an elite Swiss education along with top-tier facilities that truly make it a premium international school, a home away from home for your child, that will equip them with what they need to be competitive in the future workforce.


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