January 12th, 2018
When I read in a recent NYT’s article that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has decided to ban the teaching of English at primary schools because it views it as “culturally invasive,” I wondered why they are not considering doing the same for Arabic language which is now a required subject in Iran’s schools. Banning the teaching of English will be applicable only to public and government-funded primary schools, but this push to eliminate this required foreign language component that has been part of the school curriculum in Iran dating back to pre-Islamic Revolutionary days is alarming.
So, I decided to turn my attention back to home field, and see how our children are faring with foreign language offerings at our public schools here in America. It’s the old adage of before you judge another, first take a look at yourself. Well, I took a long look at myself aka USA, and guess what, there’s no difference between us and Iran, the country on our “enemy” list when it comes to our dismal track record on teaching foreign languages at our schools.
Recent studies paint a very grim picture of foreign language education in U.S. schools.
According to Education Week:
- Only 1 in 5 students was enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15
- Enrollment is lowest in cultural-need languages, like Arabic, which is considered crucial to national security
- And almost 8 times as many students take Latin, a so-called “dead language”
- Researchers say that lack of foreign language learning in public schools is a threat to U.S. economy and military security.
If written facts aren’t enough to shock you and visual graphics are more effective, take a look at this chart:
Now, if you’d like to have more salt poured on our language-deprived wounds, let’s switch our focus and look across the Atlantic and see how foreign language education is addressed in European countries. According to a blog posted by Quartz Media, The Pew Research Center reports that “almost every country in Europe requires students as young as six to learn a foreign language. Even more impressive, over 20 European countries require students to learn two foreign languages in school for at least one school year. In 2010, over 90% of secondary school and 73% of primary school students in Europe were learning English in the classroom, according to Pew’s analysis of Eurostat data.”
Turning our focus back to this country, it is important to note that the US does not have any national requirement for learning a second language. In a 2012 article, Forbes reported that only 15% of American elementary schools teach a foreign language.
At the rate we’re going, without getting into the current political climate in the US and its recent anti immigration, anti-globalist, anti-anything that’s foreign sentiments, and how this is affecting public education, we need to brace ourselves and prepare to say, Bye-Bye, Ciao, Sayonara, Au Revoir, Adios, Auf Wiedersehn, Khoda Hafez, to learning a foreign language in our public schools.
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.