The impact of heritage education on self-esteem and ethnic identity

Eva Ng, Pace University


Bilingual education remains highly controversial in the United States today. Advocates of bilingual education recognize an association between bilingual education and self-perceptions. This study was conducted to explore the relationship between bilingual education and self-concept in order to shed some light on the bilingual education versus English-only controversy. It examined two components of self-concept, namely self-esteem and ethnic identity, by comparing Chinese children who attended a heritage school program with Chinese children who did not receive education in their heritage language and culture. The following hypotheses were proposed: (1) a positive correlation would be found between self-esteem and heritage language education, and (2) a positive correlation would be found between ethnic identity and heritage language education. A sample of 86 Chinese children (41 males and 45 females) ranging in ages from 7–4 years old to 9–6 years old who attended an after school center participated in this study. Of these children, forty-seven were also identified as having attended a weekend Chinese heritage program for a minimum of one year. Parents of the children were given a Parent/Guardian Home Language Questionnaire and Demographic Questionnaire to complete. Each child was administered the Basic Inventory of Natural Language (BINL)—English and Chinese versions, Picture-Sorting Task, and Coopersmith's Self-esteem Inventory The two hypotheses were not supported by the results in this study. However, a number of significant 3-way interaction effects demonstrated different male and female patterns of ethnic identification and self-esteem as a function of English and Chinese language fluency. Affiliation with the non-Chinese culture decreased with the increase of facility with either language for girls who attended a heritage program, but the opposite trend was found for male program participants. Similar patterns emerged when social self-esteem and school-based self-esteem were analyzed as a function of language fluency. These results suggested that Chinese children experienced conflict related to language fluency. Additional research would be necessary to gain a better understanding of the impact of language proficiency on self-esteem and ethnic identity. Findings could have important implications for school psychologists and implementation of bilingual and bicultural/multicultural programs in public schools.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Developmental psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Ng, Eva, "The impact of heritage education on self-esteem and ethnic identity" (1999). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9925491.



Remote User: Click Here to Login (must have Pace University remote login ID and password. Once logged in, click on the View More link above)