For four years since 10th grade, I learned American and World history over and over again. Although I’m not an expert in either subjects, I must say that I got quite sick of both topics by the end of 2014. Of course, this helped me adapt quickly when I first came to the United States and World history is common sense in such a globally connected era. But the problem is that I hardly know anything about Korean history. Since I spent most of my school years in foreign or international schools, I was rarely exposed to my native country’s history.
I personally believe that history is a very important subject when it comes to reading. Learning the traditional culture or customs of your own country is bound to help you comprehend native literature, because culture is embedded into language. But since I lacked that background, I tended to shy away from reading Korean. I preferred reading Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, or other English novels as opposed to Korean books. I was never a big reader, but sometimes I didn’t pick up a Korean book for an entire year. Now that I’m a sophomore in college looking for internship positions in Korea, I feel my lack of proficiency in my mother tongue. Moreover, my limited experience with non-fiction Korean literature and writing led to a very, very elementary vocabulary, which is just embarrassing. In the past, I thought speaking, reading, and writing in English was all I needed in my life, especially in the 21st Century. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate my native language more.
This is why I was impressed by Al-Huda Academy, a pre-k to 4th grade school that is devoted to teaching Arabic, the Quran, and Islamic. In the school’s mission statement, it says that it aims to provide an “environment that nurtures a strong Muslim identity, creativity and intellectual development.” Students in the first to fourth grade have 90 minute blocks on Arabic, Quran, and Islamic. They learn the language during Arabic class, then learn how to read their religious book in a Quran class. Islamic class serves to help them understand the history and give contextual information for their religion and identity. Majority of the students do not speak English in their homes, but they are given the opportunity to develop academic proficiency in both Arabic and English. In this way, they will grow into a truly bilingual group of students.
Being schooled in an environment that welcomes their native culture and language, as well as aim at improving their English proficiency, seems like the solution to unequal education for English Language Learners in the United States. These schools probably must be built in small scales dimpled across districts to accommodate the diverse body of population. Once a few of these schools are built, they can also do exchange programs for students and teachers to provide a variety of subjects to marginalized students. In order to create and give families access to these private schools, the Title III under NCLB must expand its funding to support the ELL communities. It seems like a lot of education problems come down to money. But what more is powerful than human cooperation? I hope America will one day become a country of true freedom and no minorities.