By Vidya Pradhan
The big news in the Fremont Unified School District is the introduction of Hindi as an accredited course in the high schools.
Madhu started as a volunteer at the Hindi classes at the Fremont temple nearly 20 years ago. After a while, the lack of structure in the system forced her to develop her own teaching methodology. She started offering classes in her garage and never looked back.
Madhu’s language school has been offering after-school programs at Harker Elementary and other locations. Her company has also developed educational products like CDs , puzzles and teaching aids. Recently, the language school joined forces with the India Community Center (ICC) as Madhu wanted to continue her program under the umbrella of a non-profit.
The success of the elementary school programs and the Hindi classes at ICC encouraged her to think of approaching the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) to offer Hindi as an accredited after-school program.
“There is a realization that Hindi is the official language of India,” says Madhu, “and I found the district was quite open to the idea of a Hindi program modeled after the after-school Chinese program run by outside agencies.” According to Dr. Dennis Brown, Superintendent of Secondary Education at FUSD, “The curriculum has to be first submitted to the district which in turn submits it to the University of California. It has to meet the rigor of the UC system. It should be capable of being taught at any school in the state. The requirements for the final exam are also rigorous.”
After designing the high school curriculum, Madhu got in touch with the California Language Teachers Association(CLTA) who reviewed it and gave feedback. One recommendation was that the focus needed to be more on conversation than reading and writing. As a result all the Hindi classes have seen a revision in curriculum with the emphasis on speech first.
The CLTA recommended the revised curriculum to the district which passed it on to UC. Getting the approval of the UC system means that the language credits are accepted by the UC colleges for admission purposes as well.
Classes are being offered this year in all the middle schools and high schools in Fremont. For the 7th graders, Hindi will be offered as an elective to work towards their high-school credits.
To meet the 4.5 hour per week requirement, the classes are being divided into one weekday after-school session of 2 hours and one weekend session of 2.5 hours. To keep costs down, the weekend sessions may be combined for several schools and conducted at an off-site location, yet to be determined. Off site locations will have more of the Hindi language immersion environment with activities and language lab equipment.
The program is the first step towards making Hindi a part of the regular curriculum which requires a certain critical mass in enrollment. With the efforts of ICC and organizations like USHA to promote after-school programs in elementary schools, we may see it happening a few years from now.
For school listings and schedules check out the MBK website.