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Column: What school is like for foreign students in American schools

Every year, almost 1 million immigrants can arrive in the United States, according to Pew Research Center. With a number that high, it is expected that many of those will be children of families seeking a better future, considering that the United States is a top destination for immigrants, refugees, and asylees around the world.…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/farahhamza700/" target="_self">Farah Hamza</a>

Farah Hamza

October 1, 2021

Every year, almost 1 million immigrants can arrive in the United States, according to Pew Research Center. With a number that high, it is expected that many of those will be children of families seeking a better future, considering that the United States is a top destination for immigrants, refugees, and asylees around the world.

However, do American schools take into consideration that some of their new enrollments are students who have almost no idea what American education looks like? 

For instance, in American high schools, it is expected that most students have a huge knowledge of American history by their second to third year of high school. Teachers start explaining new lessons with words like “as you guys learned in 8th grade” not scrutinizing their students’ educational backgrounds enough, something I’ve experienced as an immigrant in 8th grade.

However, these expectations are most likely based on the fact that immigrant students of high school age constitute just less than two percent of the U.S. foreign-born immigrant population, as of the most recent data in 2018, according to Pew Research Center.

Yet the fact that they are a minority doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help. Chances are that these students’ descendants will comprise the majority of the U.S. population in future years, according to Pew Research Center.

As of 2019, about 19.4% of school-enrolled students were English Language Learners in California, and 18.7% in Texas, constituting the highest percentages of English Language Learners among states, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Almost all public schools, which are most likely first choice for immigrants who can’t afford private schools, teach their subjects in English, and therefore, for these students to be able to go through school, they need to spend, or more accurately waste, some of their life learning English.

This puts them behind American students in being able to absorb content they are jointly learning with English, which is critical, especially at a high school age, when students are about to graduate, and should be doing their best academically.

Students who speak fluent English still have to struggle with the lack of background on American educational syllabuses.

It is not just about education. These students are probably facing the hardships of “fitting in” that American students themselves face, enduring the agony of comparison to others.

A study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2016 concludes that “immigrant youth are more likely to experience bullying victimization than native-born youth.”

These most likely include accent, race, and ethnicity related bullying.

These students are in need of a specialized program that explains the information that they need to get through high school. This program should be able to explain things that American students have learned in elementary and middle school as best as possible, with interpreters speaking as many languages as possible.

Other programs that should be started should be those that increase interactions between American-born and immigrant students through multicultural, interactive student activities, especially in elementary and middle school, where students are still learning how to communicate and connect with each other.

It would also provide more comfort if schools are able to utilize their students who are of similar culture to those who are new in helping them get through mentorship and volunteering programs.

Immigrant students need more contemplation by American schools and government. English learning programs aren’t enough to get them peacefully, and successfully through school.