Next fall, Houston ISD students will be the first in the nation with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Arabic language.
In November, the Houston board of education unanimously voted to open the Arabic Language Immersion Magnet School in fall 2015, with two pre-K and two kindergarten classes. A new grade level will be added each year as students progress through grade 5.
Instruction will be split evenly between English and Arabic. After Spanish, Arabic is the second-most common non-English language spoken at home for families in the district, says Houston’s Chief School Support Officer Shonda Huery Hardman.
“Houston is becoming one of the energy capitals of the world,” Hardman says, and home of companies such as Shell and Exxon. “We’re trying to make sure that when our students graduate, they are able to go into the workforce and compete in their own city for jobs in the energy industry.”
Houston ISD is also home to two districtwide Spanish language schools, and the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School, which opened in 2012 for grades pre-K through 5. The Mandarin school has four student applicants for every available spot. The district’s long-term goal is to open a dual-language program in every elementary school, Huery Hardman says.
“When you are exposing students to languages outside of English, you’re also exposing them to other cultures,” she says. “We’re trying to teach our students to embrace diversity and to be sensitive to other cultures.”