My BOE testimony tonight: Please enhance our World Language Program at HCPSS
By Dr. Chao Wu, Columbia, MD
Monday December 5, 2016
(I took my daughter with me for tonight’s eight o’clock public forum. Unfortunately the meeting was behind the schedule. Fortunately, our newly elected BOE chair Cindy moved us to speak around 8:45, just before I was going to leave my testimony there and drive my daughter home for sleep. I really appreciated her flexibility. I care a lot about the world language program and wish it will be better along the way. .)
First I would like to congratulate the three new board members Christina, Kirsten and Mavis. I had the privilege to exchange ideas with each of you during the election season. Thanks for your willingness to serve our community and best wishes for a new and successful BOE term. Recently Cindy helped me to reach out to the school staff and I really appreciated her help too.
Our school system has been proud of its world language program. However, recently there is dramatic shift that many language classes have been moved to be taught online. I have been told before it was a budget issue. Then again I was told this change was not because of budget issue, it is a new teaching philosophy; moving courses online, improving registration rate of world language.
However, we are not sure how this change will affect the teaching quality which has the ultimate impact on the world language program. I have been hearing from teachers and students about various problems with this new teaching method.
I still want to emphasize the importance of a high quality world language program. My company has consumer electronics business all around the world, especially in China and Korea. It took us very long time to find some engineers who can speak Chinese or Korean. Without a doubt, more international business opportunities will come to our hand if we are able to have some world language skills.
First, I have strong doubt that languages are taught online with limited interactions with teachers. I am bilingual, English and Chinese. I understand how difficult it is to learn a second language starting from the middle school. I began to learn English when I entered middle school and I am still learning English every day.
Second, I hear students drop from the language class as soon as they hear the class is taught online. If the trend keeps up, eventually more international languages, except Spanish, will be dropped by the students. Then the school system will justify their reasons of reducing/changing the class format: I told you this before. In this case, the school fails our students.
Third, I have not heard how the new method will be effectively evaluated. If we want to change something, a feedback loop should be implemented such that we can adjust the changes accordingly for better outcome. Change is not always good if it is not clearly and correctly guided.
Last, I am not sure how future discussion on this online teaching will be shared with the parents, students and educators. What I have experienced is a top-down approach. We have been fed with information from the school system and our concerns have not been addressed and never seemed to be addressed at all.
With the new board shaping, new ideas merging, I believe a strong and diverse world language program is essential to enrich our students and prepare them for a better future. Let me end by partially quoting one River Hill High School graduate:
If our school wants to continue its prestigious legacy, it’s crucial to prepare students for a world that is more globalized, more connected. ….From an economic, cultural, educational, and a person-to-person perspective — emphasizing world language in modern schools makes sense considering the trajectory of the future.