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NYC Public School Mandates Arabic Language Studies for All 2nd Through 5th Graders

"It means they can spin the globe and decide where they want to work and live."

PS 368, a public elementary school in Manhattan, New York, has implemented a school-wide mandate that is capturing headlines. Principal Nicky Kram Rosen is requiring all 200 students in grades second through fifth to spend two 45-minute sessions each week learning Arabic.

The requirement, which will begin next semester, is intended to help bolster the school's standing. Rather than focusing on more common (some would argue even more useful) languages like French or Spanish, Rosen has chosen Arabic in an effort to achieve an International Baccalaureate, which would apparently be a wonderful sentiment for the school's reputation.

"She proposed this to the parent association. They were very supportive,” explained Angela Jackson, the CEO of the Global Language Project, a group backing the initiative. "Arabic has been identified as a critical-need language. It means they can spin the globe and decide where they want to work and live."

The program was created as a partnership between the Global Language Project and the Qatar Foundation International. Currently, children are participating in a pilot version of the class during their free afternoon periods. As far as potential objections to the program go, the school will need to focus on those incidents, should they become a problem, on an individualized basis.

The New York Post has more about the program:

The Arabic requirement becomes mandatory in September. But PS 368 is a so-called “choice’’ school and no kids, even those living nearby, are forced to attend it. If the school ever enrolls a student who objects to learning Arabic, administrators will deal with that on a case-by-case basis, Jackson said.

Mohamed Mamdouh, who teaches the pilot program, said, “Soon, Arabic will be a global language like French and Spanish. These kids are like sponges. It’s amazing to see their progress.’’

Mamdouh yesterday played a version of duck, duck, goose with the kids using the Arabic words for mother and father — mama and baba — for ducks and geese.

NY1 is reporting that teachers at the school also hope that, in addition to language skills, students gain a better understanding of the Middle East and Arab culture. So far, no opposition to the program has been reported.

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