Supt. Victor Mercurio presented findings from the EG Foreign Language Committee at the School Committee meeting Tuesday night that included proposals to begin foreign language instruction in elementary school and phase in Arabic at East Greenwich High School.
Formation of the committee was prompted in EG schools.
The committee, made up of language teachers, Supt. Mercurio, Chris Perrett and others, visited schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island known for their language instruction.
What they found, according to the Tuesday night presentation, was that successful language programs begin at the elementary level, integrate technology and offer beyond-the-classroom opportunities.
The report highlighted Arabic and Mandarin Chinese because both have been labeled “critical languages” by the U.S. government because the need for trained speakers exceeds the number of bilingual speakers available and because these languages have been deemed critical for U.S. national security and ecomonic competitiveness.
As nice as it would be to add programs in Arabic and Mandarin Chinese, however, the fact is there are not a lot of teachers available, according to the report. There are programs that would help accelerate training of current EG teachers as well as partnering with URI.
Right now an after-school Arabic language class for 17 students is in its second year at the high school.
One question School Committee members posed was how to guard against following trends. As Supt. Mercurio noted, there was a time not too long ago when Japanese was the language de jour. A concern is that by shifting to Arabic or Mandarin, other long-standing foreign language offerings would suffer.
After some discussion, School Committee Chair Deidre Gifford asked Mercurio to conduct a feasibility study of some of the proposals, particularly with regard to the financial implications to adding Arabic at EGHS and adding 15 minutes of language instruction a day at the elementary level.