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The Muslim Link

MD Public Schools to Offer Arabic to Elementary School Students PDF Print E-mail
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Community News - Community News
Written by Tasneem Abu Ali Muslim Link Staff Writer   
Thursday, 17 March 2011 10:03



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.

Comments (8)
  • Lana  - Great Accomplishment!
    Thank you to everyone involved in making this happen. Our children and future generations will benefit enormously from this! Congratulations!!
  • Abu Abdillah  - Great on the Face of It
    As-Salaamu 'Alaikum, The spread of knowledge of the Arabic language and anything to facilitate that should be a great benefit to mankind on the face of it. Not only Muslims but others should be able to better appreciate the thinking and beauty of the language. It should also give a big boost of confidence to students in that system who do not feel that Arabic is viewed as a world class language or who only see it as for religious studies. We should not however expect that Arabic will be taught in public schools from an Islamic point of view or purpose. On the other hand, expect hysteria from the wing-nuts who will declare that Muslims or closet Islamists are out to brainwash the minds of American children and 'Islamicize' them under the 'guise' of language studies!
  • Michael Clair  - Maryland gets it right again
    I took Arabic at UMD and am extremely happy to see it's being taught at an earlier age. I met some wonderful people in those classes, some Muslim and some not, but there was zero religious discussion at all; languages are too complex to waste time on theology. It really is a beautiful language; Their version of the letter J is pronounced as the 's' in "measure" for example, and it makes me wonder why English doesn't emphasize that wonderful consonant more. There are catchy phrases (Once you start using Insha'allah it's hard to stop), it's MUCH more simple than English, and you'll be amazed at how easy it is to read from right-to-left after reading from left-to-right your whole life. I've taken Spanish, German, and Latin (none to a level of fluency) but Arabic was by far the most fun. I'm 25 years old now and took the language not because of what the Middle East is now, but because of what it will be. For those who worry that the region is too volatile and don't want their children sent there, please consider the opportunities. Fixing America's currently poor relationship with the region is one my generation's greatest responsibilities, not our greatest threat. Our voices can drown out the extremists, but only if we're speaking the right language.
  • Roland Smith  - Quran
    Teaching Arabic would take less time if students could see Arabic written correctly by citing grammatical examples from the Quran. It is the standard of Arabic grammar.
  • Sawsan Darwish  - Is Montgomery County participating in this program
    Congratulations and best of luck. I am an Arabic teacher in Montgomery Public School in the state of Maryland. I'd like to know if Montgomery country will be participating in introducing Arabic into thevelementary school level. I have been teaching Arabic in the high school level for 4 years. Only 4 high schools in the whole County offer Arabic. I would love to be part of this new program in the elementy level. Please keep me posted of any new information concerning Arabic teaching in public school . Thank you and keep up the good work.
  • Terhas  - Arabic in Montgomery County
    I am a parent of a child in Montgomery County Public school who is in kindergarten and have been vigorusly trying to find options to teach my daughter arabic to no vail. Does anyone know if this is for montgomery county? if not, what other options are there? We live in Clarksburg MD shukran jazilan
  • Christina Harb  - Teacher Certification
    Hi Sawsan, It is good to see that Maryland has introduced Arabic into its high schools. I've taught the Startalk program in MD but that is only in the summer. However, I am interested in teaching year round and have been trying to find out how to get certified by the state of MD. How did you get certified? Any info would be much appreciated. Shukran, Christina
  • Maya A.
    You can't imagine how hard it is to find a nonsectarian school to teach Arabic in MD! I have been looking for a year now, this is a great program, but unfortunately, Montgomery County is not offering this program at my son's school. Why is that? I am willing to even pay to support the program if they offer it. Please if you have any information on such a program in MC, please inform me via email. Thank you so much! -Maya
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