A presentation on a proposal to offer “immersion” classes in Vietnamese attracted both support and questions at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education.
Gabriela Mafi, assistant superintendent of secondary education, and Sara Wescott, assistant superintendent of elementary education, made a report to the board of their attendance at a public forum Saturday in Santa Ana on the subject.
In response to a request from board member Lan Nguyen to discuss the challenges and assets of teaching curriculum largely in Vietnamese, Mafi said that the plan could “enrich the culture and language.”
On the other side of the ledger she cited a variety of concerns, including issues related to the recruitment of faculty, the costs and the availability of facilities.
“We in Garden Grove take the time to be as informed as possible,” she said. Additionally, she suggested that the community be surveyed and options explored.
Mafi will assume the duties of superintendent in July.
The plan was promoted by board member Bao Nguyen, who argued that the immersion plan would “provide students with an advantage in the global economy. In Europe, business employees know three languages; we know one.
“That’s a little embarrassing for us,” he said. Learning another language would “give our students an edge.”
Immersion is a process by which students are taught primarily or partly in a foreign language. Two versions were discussed Tuesday night.
The 90:10 model would begin in kindergarten with students being instructed in Vietnamese for 90 percent of the day. Each year the amount of English taught is increased until this is a 50-50 balance in sixth grade.
The 50:50 model would see students instructed 50 percent of the time each day in each language.
Immersion is used by the military and foreign service to quickly instruct in a foreign language. Otherwise in the U.S., immersion usually means instructing immigrant students in English.
If Garden Grove were to adopt immersion to teach Vietnamese it would be only the third in the United States to do so.
The GGUSD, most of Garden Grove as well as parts of Anaheim, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Stanton and Westminster and has large immigrant populations speaking where a language other than English is spoken.
Spanish is the most commonly-used foreign language, followed by Vietnamese and Korean.
No action was taken by the board on the proposal.