Austin ISD students will have more language options next year as the district launches Arabic, Korean and Vietnamese programs at a handful of schools.
"As we continue toward globalization, it is paramount that we prepare our students for college, career and life by equipping them with the skills needed to authentically interact with individuals from diverse cultures," said AISD World Languages Coordinator Tina Dong. "Being able to communicate in the language of native speakers leads to deeper understanding of multiple perspectives and creates much-needed empathy in the world."
Austin ISD was awarded a $100,000 grant from Qatar Foundation International to launch a new Arabic language and culture program in 2016–17.
Burnet Middle School, and Austin and International high schools will be the first schools to access these new Arabic courses, which will deliver course credit toward graduation.
The chosen schools already have strong established language programs.
Burnet Middle School's signature program is College and Careers in a Global Society. Austin High School offers an Academy for Global Studies program with an international focus. And International High School, which shares a campus with Eastside Memorial High School, helps students from multiple countries transition to public education in the U.S.
"With the addition of languages deemed critical by the Department of State, we further cement our commitment to develop socially and civically engaged students who will emerge from our schools ready to make a difference," said Dong.
The Arabic program is made possible through the inaugural first year grant from QFI, along with support from The University of Texas at Austin's Arabic Flagship Program.
QFI is committed to providing skills to enable K–12 students to be engaged global citizens through education.
"We are absolutely thrilled to partner with AISD and support the launch of Arabic in Austin and we commend AISD's efforts in providing access to critical language education for its students and promoting global citizenship," said QFI's Executive Director Maggie Mitchell Salem. "We welcome the three Austin schools joining our growing network of partner schools across the U.S., making it a total of 24 K–12 schools across the nation invested in Arabic language and Arab culture education in 2016."
Arabic I would be offered at all three schools in the first year, with Eastside Memorial students also having access to the course at International.
The Arabic program would be offered for as long as interest in the program continued. Each year, the program will grow so students have the opportunity to study Arabic language and culture at advanced levels, with Arabic IV eventually being offered at the high schools.
Travis High School Early College High School will be the first school in the state of Texas to offer Korean as a foreign language credit next year. An upper level Korean class will be offered and the new classes will count as a language credit toward graduation.
The school currently has an introduction to Korean enrichment program that features activities such as reading, writing, speaking and listening in Korean, playing cultural games, singing Korean songs, playing traditional instruments and cooking and eating Korean food.
Next year, AISD will also offer Vietnamese at Murchison Middle School as full-fledged language courses, which count as course credit toward graduation.
Summitt Elementary School, which feeds into Murchison, currently has a Vietnamese Dual Language Program.