Alberta students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, will now have access to learning Arabic in school. The government is rolling out a province-wide bilingual Arabic curriculum in time for the 2018 school year.
"Places like Brooks, for example, Cold Lake, Fort McMurray, Lac La Biche — they all have quite sizeable Arabic-speaking populations," Education Minister David Eggen said Saturday. "It's a good way for kids to learn another language a little more formally."
Bilingual language programs, including Chinese, German, Ukrainian, Italian, Japanese, Punjabi and Spanish are already offered throughout the province. Arabic is now the eighth bilingual language curriculum available to Alberta school boards.
"There has been a great demand. You see, in Edmonton we have a number of schools that are teaching Arabic, but in small towns it's not in existence," said Dean Sanduga, director of the Canadian Arab Friendship Association.
"This is not restricted to the Arab community. It's available for your children, my children, my grandchildren to learn the Arabic language."
The program is already being offered at some Edmonton-area public schools.
"The Arabic bilingual program is the largest and fastest growing bilingual program in the Edmonton public schools. We've had the [bilingual] program for 35 years," said Edmonton Public Schools trustee Cheryl Johner.
Using Edmonton Public Schools as model, the province said the Arabic curriculum will be ready for the 2018 school year.
Individual school boards will decide whether there's enough demand to offer the program.
A bilingual program in Alberta means less than 50 per cent of programming is taught in a language other than English. A French immersion program means more than 50 per cent of classes are taught in French.