Parents interested in Arab bilingual studies proposed for Calgary public schools got their first look at it during an upbeat open house on Thursday.
More than 200 parents and children packed in to the cafeteria at Central Memorial high school for the event, launched by the Calgary Board of Education in response to an application brought forward by several Calgary parents, including Nayef Hattab.
Hattab, whose three daughters grew up in a CBE without an Arab bilingual program, said such studies would empower his grandson with an advantage over competitors in the future workforce, particularly overseas.
"As a parent, it's really important for kids to have this opportunity. It will open up a lot of doors in the future," said Hattab.
The program would mirror other bilingual offerings such as Mandarin, German, French and Spanish that deliver instruction in both languages, between 30% and 50% in one and the rest in English.
Board officials said the program could begin as early as September, 2012 if there's sufficient interest.
As of Thursday, nearly 300 people signed expressions of interest through the board's website.
While most parents attending the open house said they welcomed the opportunity, others used it to express concerns.
"Not a good idea to teach young Arab children in their own language at taxpayer's expense. This is a country with two official languages — let them become proficient in Eng and Fr. (sic) and learn their Arabic at home," one elderly lady wrote in a comment posted on a message board.
CBE spokesman Richard Peter said the program is intended for non-Arabic speaking students, not those already proficient in the language.
Officials within the CBE's superintendant's office are expected to weigh the program's viability and compile a report that school board officials will use to greenlight the option or not.