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New plan significantly improves language education at Rice

By Staff Editorial     9/21/11 7:00pm

Rice is an outstanding academic institution for most things, but recent information indicates that foreign language education is not one of Rice's strengths (see story, pg. XX). However, Rice is considering a strong proposal to have lower-level language courses meet five times a week.

The new course structure would allow students to have more regular practice with their new language, and it would likely aid students in building a higher proficiency in the language. The five hours of classroom learning and language practice would help Rice bridge its proficiency gap, but it would also provide a much taller order for students interested in picking up a new language. Students with packed majors or busy schedules may be dissuaded from registering for a new language course; however, students who do decide to learn a new language could be more confident that their goal will be accomplished.

In an effort to make introductory language courses a reasonable endeavor for even the busiest students, language departments should consider offsetting the students' extra commitment of class time with less homework if it can be done without compromising the students learning. The plan to offer flexible courses that allows students to attend class at any of a selection of times each day will also help alleviate the inconveniences associated with a five-class-per-week course.

Rice is also attempting to promote its students' knowledge of foreign language skills in real-life situations. It is considering the addition of a new program of majors that would include a mandatory study abroad component in their area of education. The Thresher believes that this new program incentivizes learning a new language for students while promoting study abroad programs at the university. The adjoining proposition to offest the costs of studying abroad via improved financial aid is also a great advantage for the students.

Currently, participation in language courses and study abroad programs is relatively low at Rice. The Thresher certainly hopes that a little bit of extra student motivation paired with these new programs can help to alleviate that. We may be a science-heavy university, but that is no excuse for students not to fully utilize the opportunities available for them at Rice.

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