There is a difference between bilingual programs and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, although bilingual programs include an ESL component. Bilingual programs are designed to introduce students to English gradually by working with them in both English and their native tongue. The students are able to master English without losing proficiency in the native language. In bilingual or dual language immersion, the class typically includes English speaking students and LEP students who share the same native language. Instruction is given in both English and the native language. In developmental or late-exit programs, all students share the same language; instruction begins in that language but gradually shifts to English as the students become more proficient.
Transitional or early-exit programs are similar to developmental programs, except that the goal is mastery of English rather than bilingualism. Students who become proficient in English are transferred to English-only classes.
Bilingualism is not generally a goal in ESL programs. In sheltered English or structured immersion programs, LEP students are taught in English (supplemented by gestures and other visual aids). The goal is acquisition of English. Pull-out ESL programs include English-only instruction, but LEP participants are “pulled out” of the classroom for part of the day for lessons in their native tongue.