Guilford County Schools will be the second school system in the nation to have an Urdu-English dual language program. The program will also be the first in North Carolina.
Urdu is the official national language of Pakistan and is also spoken in India. In the High Point area, school officials say there are large pockets of Urdu speakers. Out of the 440 students at Allen Jay Elementary, 28 percent speak the language. Interim Chief Academic Officer for Guilford County Schools Whitney Oakley said one of their goals is to close the achievement gap that exists between minorities and white students.
“English learners can outpace native English speakers year after year when they have a high quality program that includes their primary language and English,” she said.
The program will follow kindergartners through their years at Allen Jay Elementary. The school will also have a Spanish-English dual language program. Oakley said the program will be positive for the long-term success of their students.
“We’re expecting to learn from and see benefits through the program and then be able to expand in future years,” she said.
Another Spanish-English dual language program will be at Hunter Elementary in Greensboro. The programs will begin this fall. The district hopes to expand to more schools later on. Oakley said Guilford County Schools want to make children's entry into school to be positive.
“Many of our students walk into kindergarten on the first day and it's the first time they've heard English,” she said. “We have to be culturally responsive and sensitive to where students are coming from and respect that and include it as part of their education.”