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The dual language program in Bengali will be available at PS 7 in Elmhurst in September.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Beginning this September, the City Department of Education will offer the first South Asian dual language program in public schools, according to U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx), who have been urging the agency to create such curricula.
According to Meng and Crowley, the DOE will make a program in Bengali, the most widely spoken language Bangladesh and second-most widely spoken language of India, available at PS 7in Elmhurst.
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.
“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,” Meng said.“By establishing the first South Asian dual language program, the DOE demonstrates that it understands 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. 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. I look forward to working with Chancellor [Richard] Carranza to help make that happen.”
In 2015, Meng and Crowley penned a letter to then-Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, asking the administration to expand their language programs, arguing that these initiatives would better meet the needs of the large South Asian population in New York. Meng and Crowley noted in their missive that dual language programs included Spanish, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Polish, and Hebrew—but no South Asian languages.
“The South Asian-American community in NYC is ethnically and linguistically diverse with well over 351,000 South Asian Americans living in NYC and over 60 percent of that population located in Queens, NY,” the lawmakers wrote.“This community includes, but is not limited to: Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, and Indo-Caribbean Americans. The most common South Asian languages spoken in NYC are also the languages with the most Limited English Proficient speakers.”
There are swaths of Bangladeshi-American communities in Queens, especially in City Line, Richmond Hill, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, and parts of Flushing.