Posted: Dec 21, 2012 11:48 AM
Updated: Dec 21, 2012 11:48 AM
DALLAS (AP) While many area schools have classes in Chinese and Arabic, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD offers another Asian language that's not often studied: Hindi.
Plus, the district offers these languages not only in high school but starting in seventh grade.
"We wanted to give the students two more years to set a strong foundation through high school," said Bhavani Parpia, International Business Initiative coordinator.
The Dallas Morning News reports the district became the first in the nation to implement the IBI with Hindi language instruction starting in seventh grade. In Texas, it's also one of only a few public school districts to offer Chinese starting in seventh grade.
"We've been lucky," Parpia said. "We have a fantastic superintendent who sees the big picture. He gives me the OK to securing funding."
Gene Buinger has served as superintendent since 1999. He recently announced his retirement, which will be effective in June.
During his tenure, Buinger implemented the International Baccalaureate program and the International Business Initiative. He also started sister school programs in Yichang, China, and Mussoorie, India, with plans to add a third one in the Middle East. One group of students has already visited China and another group will head to India in March.
Buinger's interest in global education, combined with Parpia's passion for international language studies, has led to student success. The district's passing rate on IB exams is 83 percent, which is higher than the U.S. passing rate of 66.9 percent and the world passing rate of 78.4 percent.
Students enrolled in the Asian languages program have a 100 percent passing rate on the Hindi IB exam and a 78 percent passing rate on the Mandarin IB exam. Arabic was introduced last year. The district started teaching Chinese and Hindi in 2007.
"We are certainly heading in the right direction," Buinger said.
The district's Asian language focus has put it in the spotlight. Al Jazeera, an international media company, recently visited Tamara Haddad's Arabic class at Central Junior High.
As students conversed in Arabic and learned about Morocco, a cameraman filmed the interaction. Students demonstrated how to serve Moroccan tea and then shared Moroccan sweets.
Abderrahim Foukara, head of Al Jazeera's U.S. bureau in Washington, D.C., accompanied the camera operator and briefly spoke to the students.
"Now you will be famous and featured around the world," Foukara said.
Students in the language classes are diverse. The district said 72 languages are spoken among its students.
Madonna Hanna, 14, said the Arabic class is her favorite.
"Everyone talks in Arabic," she said. "And Miss Haddad is great."
Parents' support for the Asian language classes has been growing, Parpia said. She informs parents about the classes through meetings and offers summer introductory classes.
"I've had to turn parents away," she said.
That's unlike what happened in the Mansfield ISD last year when parents complained about incorporating Arabic into the curriculum. The outcry caused the district to amend its grant proposal for the program. The U.S. Department of Education, which offers the Foreign Language Assistance Program grant, then rejected the revised proposal.
"Our parents see the value in learning these languages," Buinger said. He added that he believes Chinese will replace French as a core second language in schools. And Hindi and Arabic may not be far behind.
According to the Asia Foundation, more than 60 percent of the world's population resides in Asia. And of the 10 nations with the largest populations, six are in Asia: China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan.
With India expected to overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2025, the HEB ISD students learning Hindi should be ready.
"I have some fantastic students," Parpia said.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com