Arabic mandatory at city public school
By SABRINA FORD
Last Updated: 3:53 AM, May 24, 2012
Posted: 12:35 AM, May 24, 2012
An upper Manhattan public elementary school will be the first in the city to require that students study Arabic, officials said yesterday.
Beginning next semester, all 200 second- through fifth-graders at PS 368 in Hamilton Heights will be taught the language twice a week for 45 minutes — putting it on equal footing with science and music courses.
One reason Principal Nicky Kram Rosen selected Arabic — as opposed to more common offerings, such as Spanish or French — is because it will help the school obtain a prestigious International Baccalaureate standing.
“She proposed this to the parent association. They were very supportive,” said Angela Jackson, CEO of the Global Language Project, which is backing the initiative.
“Arabic has been identified as a critical-need language,” she said, citing students’ future “career trajectories.’’
“It means they can spin the globe and decide where they want to work and live.”
Students now taking the class in a pilot program during their free afternoon periods said it’s been a challenge — but a rewarding one.
“I like Arabic class. I like the words we learn. I thought they sounded funny at first, now I think they sound cool,” said Nayanti Brown, a 7-year-old second-grader. “I teach my little sister the words I learn.’’
Nayanti said her mother was skeptical at first.
“When I gave my mom the [permission slip] to sign, she was shocked. [Now] she’s happy I’m in the class,” she said.
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.
He also played a version of Simon Says where he would say a word or phrase in Arabic like, “ma drasti” — my school — and make a gesture like opening a book.
Bella Moon Castro, 34, of Harlem, signed her son up and is glad he’ll have a chance to learn Arabic.
“This makes the world smaller for the kids. It develops their confidence,” Castro said.
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