The American education system is facing two divergent scenarios.
On the one hand, budgets remain stagnant. World language programs are being cut. In many areas, there are widespread teacher shortages.
On the other, the world’s economy grows more multinational by the day. Foreign language skills, which were once only a “nice to have” for expatriate workers, are now necessary in most sectors of the economy – even for students who will never step foot in a foreign country during their careers.
This growing gap and some possible solutions inspired our new eBook, “Closing the World Language Education Gap”.
The eBook starts with a lay of the land, so to speak. Where exactly does world language stand in America’s schools? Not surprisingly, the facts are bleak. Only 18 percent of US K-12 students are studying a language. The number of schools with foreign language programs has decreased drastically in the past 20 years – especially in elementary and middle schools, where they would be the most effective.
What is causing this? Everything from shrinking budgets to over-prioritizing high school education to school’s adopting less robust elective choices in an effort to boost the core subject areas.
Particularly troubling is the lack of offerings in languages considered less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). These languages, such as Arabic and Vietnamese, are increasingly valuable in the developing world but are rarely taught in American schools in favor of obvious choices such as Spanish and German.
Perhaps the most eye-opening fact in the report is that 57 percent of parents believe speaking another language is the most valuable skill their children can learn for the future. Somehow, that sentiment and schools’ actions are at a disconnect. Fortunately, there are solutions.
Some are broad, such as requiring language study for all students and cross-training teachers for cultural competency. But one is the byproduct of the multinational economy in which we hope our students can compete – technology.
With 24/7 access, state-of-the-art interactivity, and the ability to let students practice their speaking skills much more than they can in an in-person class, blended learning technology allows schools to offer more languages, maximize teaching resources, and provide a more immersive education experience to their students. It’s a common sense solution to the gap laid out so vividly in the new eBook, “Closing the World Language Education Gap”.