The College Board will offer a new Advanced Placement course and exam in Chinese language and culture beginning in the 2006-07 school year, the New York City-based organization announced last week.
Introduction of the subject is part of a plan to double the number of foreign language offerings in the rigorous high school program, with the goal of promoting the study of other languages and cultures as essential for students’ success in an increasingly global society.
The board announced earlier this fall that the AP program would offer Italian beginning in the 2005-06 school year. Plans are also under way to develop courses and the culminating exams in Japanese and Russian. Since the AP program was launched in 1955, students have been able to choose among just four foreign language offerings: French, German, Latin, and Spanish.
Expansion comes at a time when the board has decided to limit new subjects and focus instead on boosting access to existing courses for minority students and other groups who have traditionally stayed away from the program.
But “when the case can be made that new AP courses would expand options for students and schools and promote commitment to fostering multilingual and multiethnic studies, occasionally a decision is made to move forward,” said Trevor Packer, the executive director of the AP program.
Into the Mainstream
Advocates of foreign language instruction say the new choices will provide incentives to students to pursue language studies. Those who perform well in the course and the corresponding exam can earn college credit.
“We have difficulty attracting students to less commonly taught languages when they don’t see an AP offering,” said Martha G. Abbott, the director of high school instruction for the Fairfax County, Va., public schools. She is finishing up her term as president of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “This is a very important part of moving these languages into the mainstream curriculum.”
It may take time, however, to build participation in the courses, Mr. Packer said. According to a survey by the College Board, fewer than 100 schools around the country have the resources and student interest to make courses in Chinese or Russian feasible. About 250 schools already have significant Japanese language programs. For the Italian course, meanwhile, some 500 schools have been identified to offer the course in the first year, the minimum number the College Board deems necessary to sustain the program.
A task force will be appointed next month to draft an outline of the Chinese course and test specifications.