Optimally, providing K-12 education about Asia should go hand in hand with classes in Asian languages and cultures. The following article is a description of how a partnership between Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), local school districts and community-based language schools launched a highly popular summer language camp program which featured Chinese, Japanese, and Korean as three of the five less commonly taught languages offered during the project. Project components included:
- university training in foreign language in elementary school (FLES) methodology for native speakers recruited from community-based language schools,
- guidance provided by certified teachers who could speak the target languages with varying degrees of fluency,
- high school or college-age native speakers or students of the target languages who served as teacher aides,
- enough clock hours in the practicum experience to allow participants to qualify for Washington state conditional teaching certificates upon successful completion of the program.
In 1995 OSPI applied for a three-year Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant, one of several to be awarded to state education agencies, called for the establishment or enhancement of programs in the less commonly taught languages of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, or Russian in elementary schools. OSPI received one of those grants in 1996.
Major grant conditions required the involvement of native speakers, selection of one or more of the target languages, focus on elementary schools, and replicability of the program. Because of the large immigrant communities in Washington state, the grant writers chose to design a program encompassing all the target languages. The majority of project participants came from community-based language schools. Some were ESL instructional assistants from local school districts. (Because of the newness of the immigrant community from the former Soviet Union, Russian language community schools do not yet exist.)
The work of the FLAP committee was divided into five areas, each headed by a chairperson: curriculum, technology, higher education, staff development, and communities.