The Maryland public school system intends to introduce Arabic language instruction to its elementary school students, the state’s Department of Education said this week.
Maryland proposed the program as part of its Race to the Top federal grant application. Maryland was one of nine states and the District of Columbia to win in the $4.3 billion education competition designed to reshape teaching in schools across the country.
The pioneering program, called World Languages Pipelines, has the aim of developing elementary school programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and dual immersion Spanish. The dual immersion Spanish requires a specific number of Spanish and English language speakers in the same classroom, something that might eventually be implemented for other languages such as Arabic, once the interest and number of programs grow.
Now that the Maryland State Department of Education has received the grant, it is in the hands of the school systems. Applications have been distributed to the schools and they will choose the language they desire to teach and submit their proposals to the Maryland State Department of Education. Four school systems will be selected to launch the program. The Maryland State Department of Education has an Arabic and Chinese education specialist to help in the program, such as in setting the curriculum. Arabic will also be introduced into the science curriculum such as the STEM program, or Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. Units in science will be taught in Arabic or Chinese.
Susan Spinnato, the director of instructional programs for the Maryland State Department of Education, told the Muslim Link that the whole purpose of the program “is to move Maryland public schools, that are number one in the nation, to world class. You can’t be world class unless you’re globally competent, and that means being able to speak another language and to have cross cultural knowledge.” She said that the pipelines program would have the effect of “placing Maryland on the cutting edge.”
The name “pipeline” is in reference to the program starting from the elementary school level. The future projection for the program is that the students will graduate from high school with proficiency in another language and that they will be able to pursue Arabic at the college level or as a career path.
Howard County, Maryland resident Anwer Hassan, who chairs the Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern Affairs, told the Muslim Link that introducing Arabic language to public school students was one of the agenda items in meeting with the governor. Hassan also met with the Maryland State Department of Education, and was the one to suggest that Arabic be introduced at the elementary school level rather than at a later stage, as children can grasp more at an early age.
“Years of effort has paid off. Im glad we have a governor in the state of Maryland who is really supportive of [this] initiative,” said Hassan. Arabic instruction is important for bridging the gap of understanding between the west and the Arab world, and for removing misconceptions about the Islamic faith, he added. National security and trade are also in need for more Arabic speakers, he said, adding that Maryland is a heavy exporter to the Middle East. Muslim children will also better understand their religion by knowing Arabic, said Hassan.