Wisconsin's top teacher wants our kids to speak Arabic and Chinese.
Wisconsin schools have national prominence in teaching world languages, and state superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster says we need to get better in this new millennium. "Over 50% of our students study a world language and we're very proud of that. But we know that if all of our students are going to be prepared for the 21st Century global society, that we really have to get more students studying world languages and most importantly we have to get them starting those languages earlier."
Burmaster says right now only four public school programs in Wisconsin teach Mandarin Chinese and none offer Arabic , yet she points out that these two languages are among the top 10 critical need languages identified by the federal government. However, Burmaster says Wisconsin's language efforts recently got a shot in the arm through a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language Assistance Program grant. "We're very proud. We were one of only four states to receive this grant. And I think it is a testament to the national prominence that we do have in Wisconsin in teaching world languages, with over 50% of our students studying languages."
Burmaster says the three-year, $720-thousand grant will be used to prepare educators to teach Mandarin Chinese and Arabic in elementary, middle, and high schools. Burmaster explains, there's a significant need for understanding other languages and cultures, especially in our business climate. Wisconsin firms export more than $12-billion worth of products to other countries.
Local school districts determine whether the class is elective or mandatory.