Since 9/11, the number of students interested in the Middle Eastern language has been skyrocketing. More than 20,000 people in the USA enrolled in an Arabic-language higher-education program in 2006, double the number who signed up from 1998 to 2002, according to projections from a study the Modern Language Association expects to release this fall.
Education experts agree that Arabic is a difficult language to learn, more so than French or Spanish, the traditional alternatives.
Not surprisingly, the student dropout rate is high.
“We estimate that 20,000 students are studying Arabic at the collegiate level, but not even 5% are likely to graduate with functional speaking proficiency,” says R. Kirk Belnap, director of the National Resource Center at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
The remedy? Teach Arabic to students at a younger age. Like they intend to do at the Khalil Gibran academy, the school where the principal was hounded out of her job before the school ever opened for business.