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"We used to think of North Carolina in terms of Murphy to Manteo and mountains to sea," explains one teacher, "but now we talk about Durham to Dubai and Bessemer City to Beijing, because we know we are educating students for a new, global economy."
To help prepare students for the new economy, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is providing more instruction in global languages - also called "critical languages" - Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic.
UNC-TV's new 26-minute documentary, LEARNING WITH THE WORLD, visits classrooms across the state to see how students are learning about these languages and cultures.
Highlights range from the Confucius Classroom at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford to a kindergarten class in Arabic taught by a former basketball player from Egypt to a passionate high school Russian teacher from Burgaw.
The program also features the immersion programs in Chinese and Japanese at Smith Academy for International Language in Charlotte.
The 2010 mission of the North Carolina State Board of Education calls on teachers to prepare students to be "globally competitive for work and postsecondary education." The overall vision is that students will graduate competent to communicate, collaborate, and compete with their peers worldwide.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, graduates should be:
An essential part of meeting those goals is to introduce students to world cultures in the course of their instruction in public schools, beginning as early as kindergarten. Although students continue to study romance languages (French, Spanish, Latin), the Department of Public Instruction has identified four foreign languages as "critical languages." These languages are Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian.
The designation of "critical languages" grew out of the National Security Language Initiative, proposed by President George W. Bush in 2006. At the time, these languages were identified as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Farsi, Hindi and others spoken in countries vital to U.S. interests. Today in North Carolina, we have identified Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian as areas for new focus. China is our second largest trading partner, purchasing ten percent of North Carolina agricultural exports. Many of North Carolina's largest companies are global and expect a work force that will be able to conduct business with other countries. Even North Carolina's smallest companies are marketing their products and services on the internet, making cultural understanding and language competence more essential than ever.
Many innovative and exciting things are happening in our classrooms and beyond. Producer Donna Campbell worked with the University of North Carolina's ground-breaking program, LEARN NC, to interview teachers, students and language professionals around the state. Learning With The World will help bring a new understanding of this issue to our viewers.