Categories: ,

Arabic language classes coming to Metro Schools in 2015-16

Classes to be designed for both beginning and native speakers

Metro Schools is taking full advantage of the rich diversity and multiculturalism Nashville has to offer by expanding foreign language options into brand new territory. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, six Metro schools will offer Arabic language classes in grades 7-12.

“This latest expansion strengthens our district’s dedication to foreign language instruction and diverse course offerings outside of the core academics,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “We are very excited about starting this program. It gives our schools yet another unique and attractive feature for families, and helps meet the demands of our increasingly diverse city.”

Arabic will be offered in six schools in three clusters, all located in South Nashville. There will be three Arabic teachers serving in two schools each:

  • Antioch High School and Margaret Allen Middle Prep
  • Cane Ridge High School and Antioch Middle Prep
  • Overton High School and McMurray Middle Prep

These schools were chosen based on a detailed audit of students’ home languages. Each of these schools has dozens – and in some cases hundreds – of students who identify Arabic as their primary language. That is why two different courses will be offered: beginning Arabic and heritage Arabic.

Beginning Arabic is designed for students who are unfamiliar with the language and are starting from scratch. Heritage Arabic is designed for native speakers as a way to enhance their language skills and possibly even learn to read and write in Arabic for the first time.

“Native Arabic speakers have this innate skill they can take into adulthood. We want them to develop it further and use it to also strengthen their English skills,” said Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele. “As they progress and make more connections between Arabic and English, they will start to see benefits in other classes, as well. We believe it will help them be more engaged in school as a whole and also help them stay connected to their native culture.”

For beginning students, learning Arabic will come with all the same benefits of learning any foreign language. Research shows that, like music, learning a foreign language pays dividends in cognitive development and academic achievement – particularly in math and language arts. In addition to being an essential component of a well-rounded education, knowing an in-demand foreign language like Arabic or Chinese is a desirable skill to have after graduation.

“Students who graduate with skills in Arabic speaking have incredible international opportunities open to them,” said Dr. Steele. “In today’s environment, it’s often a necessity for students to speak two languages. We need to give our students a solid background in foreign language so they can take it even further in college, potentially to the point of full fluency. That opens up a world of possibilities after graduation.”

The next steps in building an Arabic program are to hire teachers. Recruiting is underway right now, with positions posted online. District officials are working with the Tennessee Department of Education to ensure teachers can be certified in Arabic, as currently just one university in all of Tennessee offers it for educational certification. Once teachers are hired, they will help decide which dialect of Arabic will be taught and then will design the curriculum.

Foreign languages are offered in every Metro high school and most Metro middle schools. By the 2016-17 school year, district leaders hope to expand foreign language instruction to every middle school. Current offerings include:

  • Spanish, offered K-12
  • Mandarin Chinese, offered K-12
  • French, offered 7-12
  • Latin, offered 7-12
  • German, offered 9-12
  • Arabic, to be offered 7-12