Public schools making it easier to raise global kids
Language and culture immersion a growing trend in public education
The next big thing in education among high-achieving parents and their families isn’t expensive private schools, tutors or high SAT scores, but travel abroad, according to a recent article in Newsweek magazine. Many parents are relocating overseas or sending their children abroad for a semester to give their kids a full-on immersion experiences in another country's language, culture, school system and social nuances. But this isn't an option for everyone. Thankfully, an increasing number of public schools are offering foreign language and culture-immersion education programs closer to home.
"There's another part to immersion education than just the foreign language," says Becky Kappus, MAED, campus chair for the College of Education at the University of Phoenix New Mexico Campus. "There's the social nuances, how we look at each other, how we behave in a culture. That's where I come in."
Kappus, a former social studies teacher with more than 25 years’ experience partnering with foreign language teachers (mainly Spanish), has made teaching cultural discourse part of her life’s work. “One of the education courses I teach at University of Phoenix is a course in social studies methods,” she says. “It is through this course that I am able to share with our new teachers the importance of multiple cultural perspectives as well as language.”
Being able to teach through a culturally relevant lens is vital for any teacher, says University faculty member Joanne Calore, Ed.D, an educator who has done academic research into intercultural education, specifically as it relates to the multicultural and/or multiracial child. “Children need to do more than just speak more than one language,” says Calore. “They also need to speak more than one culture. I teach my students how to know and incorporate each child’s cultural story into their classrooms.”
Calore, who teaches master’s-level education courses, teaches her students how to conduct internal “self-bias” checks to identify any preconceived cultural biases they may have. “Educators must be culturally literate, especially with those cultures that are represented in their own classrooms,” she says.
Language immersion education goes public
Many public school districts are now offering foreign language immersion courses. St. Louis Language Immersion Schools (SLLIS), a public charter school network in St. Louis, serves more than 500 students in grades K-3, says founder and president Rhonda Broussard.
SLLIS offers four different language immersion options — Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. Parents decide which language track their children will follow. “Many parents are responding to the increased use of Spanish [in the U.S.] and see that language as a minimum requirement for their children’s future,” says Broussard, “We will open the Chinese and Japanese schools next, and are already seeing more demand for Chinese than Japanese.”
Broussard, whose has international teaching experience including teaching at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens, N.Y., believes that public language immersion education will become a growing trend simply because the changing world demands it. “Language immersion education is imperative in American public schools,” she says. “The actual skill of being multilingual will give our students access to the entire world.”