NYC Education Department to launch first dual language program in Bengali

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A poster put out by the NYC Department of Education. (Photo: Twitter)

New York City has finally taken concrete steps to implement an initiative for dual language programs in South Asian languages in public schools.  In dual language programs, students are taught half in English and half in another language. The programs are made available to English-language learners, immigrant students who are native speakers of the second language, and native English speakers.

Beginning this September, the city’s DOE will offer a dual language program in Bengali, the first of its kind, in New York City public schools, starting with P.S. 7, the Louis F. Simeone School, in Elmhurst, Queens.

The two U.S. lawmakers from New York responsible for urging the City to take on this initiative, Reps. Grace Meng, and Joe Crowley, announced the initiative in a press release May 17. They said they would continue to urge the city to implement dual language programs in other South Asian languages as well, “to meet the needs of Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese and other South Asian communities.”

Meng and Crowley began their campaign back in 2015, arguing that these initiatives would better meet the needs of the large South Asian population in New York. The lawmakers noted in their letter to then-Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that dual language programs included everything from Chinese and French to Haitian Creole and Russian but no South Asian languages.

“I applaud the Department of Education and our new Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for implementing this new dual language program,”  Rep. Meng said in a statement in the press release. “This initiative is greatly needed and it will be a tremendous boon to students of Bangladeshi descent. I am also thrilled that it will be offered in a school attended by my constituents here in Queens.”

She praised the DOE for understanding how important these programs are to the South Asian community. “Dual language programs help immigrant students flourish in the classroom, and provides them with opportunities to succeed in life,” Meng contended. “I now call on the DOE to build on this important first-step and expand dual language programs to other South Asian languages in order to meet the needs of students and parents in the Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, and other South Asian communities,” she added.

“New York City has made great strides in offering a variety of language programs for our city’s schoolchildren, and I’m honored that Queens will be home to the first South Asian dual language program,” Rep. Crowley said. “By bringing Bengali into the classroom, we are creating new opportunities for students of South Asian descent to thrive. Our education system should reflect the diversity of our families, and I hope the Department of Education will continue creating new dual language programs to support other members of the South Asian community.”