But today, one subject of many debates is how well schoolchildren read and write Spanish today. On the other hand, the school system of Miami-Dade County is considering how to teach the native language of the county’s multi-ethnic residents.
The debate concerning the Spanish language education started when the school system began the phasing out of the Spanish classes that were given for 30 minutes each day, starting in 2013 with the second graders. It came about because of the complaints of parents that 30 minutes a day is not enough for the students to be fully bilingual.
The school district decided that rather than giving the traditional Spanish classes, they would expand their extended foreign language program, which meant instructions in subjects like science and math would be in English and one other language. The executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Marty Abbott said that students become more proficient in a target language based on the intensity of the program and the length of time they spend on it.
Abbott likewise said that the method becomes more cost-effective because it will eliminate the hiring of a separate teacher for Spanish, since the classroom teacher will take on the task.
This new program had become very attractive to parents in Miami-Dade but it is something that could not be availed of by some students. In Aventura Waterways K-8 for example, there is always a waiting list for the extended foreign language (EFL) program. If students are not able to get into it at kindergarten level, they would not be able to get into the program in later grades because the level of rigor demands that the student must reach a level of familiarity with the target language depending on the school grade level.
Moreover, if students are not on a grade level in their native tongues, they are also not eligible to access the program. With this new system, the students should either get into the intense foreign language instruction or not at all.
One other issue about the new program concerns the teachers. The EFL now requires them to be able to read and write in the target language as well as in English, aside from teaching science and math. It has now become a conundrum since teachers who are certified to teach other subjects might be able to speak Spanish but do not have proper language skills or training to teach the language. Likewise, the Spanish teachers might not be certified to teach other subjects.
There’s some good news ahead as Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that further implementation of the EFL would be postponed and the program fine-tuned. He said the new program was in answer to the demands of parents to revamp the traditional method of teaching Spanish. The old style would be continued while they evaluate the new program and find ways to make learning the Spanish language more accessible and viable to students in all school levels.