An upper Manhattan public elementary school will be the first in the city to require that students study Arabic, officials said last week.
Beginning next semester, all 200 second-through fifth-graders at PS 368 in Hamilton Heights will be taught the language twice a week for 45 minutes, putting it on equal footing with science and music courses, The New York Post reported.
Principal Nicky Kram Rosen said that she selected Arabic, as opposed to more common offerings, such as Spanish or French, is because it will help the school obtain a more prestigious degree standing.
"She proposed this to the parent association. They were very supportive," said Angela Jackson, CEO of the Global Language Project, which is backing the initiative.
"Arabic has been identified as a critical-need language," she said, citing students' future "career trajectories."
"It means they can spin the globe and decide where they want to work and live."
Students now taking the class in a pilot program during their free afternoon periods, said it has been a reward as well as a challenge.
"I like Arabic class. I like the words we learn. I thought they sounded funny at first, now I think they sound cool," said Nayanti Brown, a 7-year-old second-grader. "I teach my little sister the words I learn."
"When I gave my mom the [permission slip] to sign, she was shocked. [Now] she's happy I'm in the class," she said.
The Arabic requirement becomes mandatory at PS 368 in September. However, because it is a so-called "choice" school, no students, not even those living nearby, are forced to attend. If the school enrolls a student who objects to learning Arabic, administrators will handle that on a case-by-case basis, Jackson said.
"Soon, Arabic will be a global language like French and Spanish. These kids are like sponges. It's amazing to see their progress," said Mohamed Mamdouh, who teaches the pilot program.