ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Metro Nashville Public Schools Board in the US state of Tennessee hopes to have Kurdish language courses available to students at high schools across the district in time for the start of the 2019 school year in the fall.
After months of efforts from Nashville’s large Kurdish community, the Metro Nashville Public Schools Board decided in a unanimous vote in January to include the Kurdish language in a list of international languages available to students for credit.
The successful vote was followed up by approval from the Tennessee Department of Education, which examines all special course requests, including the basis for the course, the district’s justification, the course’s design, and its application.
Members of the Kurdish community and the Nashville school board met this week to discuss ways to recruit students and teachers for the courses which they hope will be available by the fall.
Monique Felder, the Chief Academic Officer for Metro Nashville Public Schools, said she was excited about the opportunity to teach the language to Kurdish as well as non-Kurdish-speaking students.
“We know that in order to prepare students for the 21st century in this new world of work, where they will be globally competitive, that if they can speak, and read, and write in more than one language, they will have an advantage,” she told Kurdistan 24.
Nashville is known for its sizeable Kurdish population and has even earned the nickname “Little Kurdistan.” Over 1,100 Kurdish students from different parts of the city attend public schools in Nashville.
Felder said the Kurdish community adds value to the state of Tennessee, particularly the city of Nashville which “embraces and celebrates diversity.”
“The fact that the state department of education approved the course code in a very quick way sends a signal that they value multiple languages and value cultural diversity,” she stated.
Will Pinkston, a Nashville school board representative, said educators and members of the community are “very proud…to be undertaking a ground-breaking new program to teach Kurdish language instruction in our high schools.”
“The next step is to begin recruiting students into the program and identify teachers who are going to help deliver the instruction,” he told Kurdistan 24.
According to Pinkston, one of the greatest challenges ahead for the program is to educate students and families about the availability of the course, and “get the word out.”
“We’ll do some events – cultural events – to help create energy and excitement around it, and then we’ll recruit the teachers,” he said.
“Having grown up in south Nashville where much of the Kurdish community is now [residing], to me, this is a very natural next step in our city’s development as a truly welcoming and global city, so we’re very excited about this.”
Nawzad Hawrami, director of the Salahadeen Center of Nashville, who sent the initial proposal to a school board member, said there are at least three high schools so far that will teach the courses.
“These courses are available to all students, not only Kurdish ones,” Hawrami told Kurdistan 24.
Members of the Kurdish community and school board representatives are set to hold another meeting on April 23 to continue discussions and preparations for the curriculum.
(Additional reporting by Kawa Hassan)