8 Schools to Share Online Arabic And Water Resources Courses

As part of the Eight Schools Association’s (ESA) initiative to create shared courses, Andover hopes to offer its students online classes in Arabic and Global Water Resources during the 2014-2015 school year.

The ESA, which includes representatives from Andover, Phillips Exeter Academy, Northfield Mount Hermon, St. Paul’s School, Lawrenceville, Choate, Deerfield and Hotchkiss, met in the spring of 2013 to discuss the needs of its member schools. At the end of these meetings, the schools decided to address their dearth of uncommon languages and their desire to incorporate travel in the curriculum.

Two students from each school will be offered enrollment in the Arabic online program every year. The course plans to require a two year commitment, as it typically takes two years to get students to transition into college Arabic programs easily, according to Peter Merrill, Interim Chair of the Global Perspectives Group and Instructor in Russian and German.

“If we did a one year program, we would essentially be leaving the kids on their own,” said Merrill.

In the past, schools have found it difficult to hire teachers in languages such as Arabic due to low student demand. With an online presence, the ESA hopes not only to generate interest in this unconventional language, but also to eliminate the struggle of finding faculty to teach the course and keep dropout rates low for language classes.

“[An online course] will be a way to keep some presence of Arabic in the school but not necessarily leading to anything on the Andover campus,” according to Merrill.

The Arabic program will be limited to students who have already completed their school’s language requirements and to those with particularly strong initiative to handle the difficulty of an online language course.

Another part of the ESA’s venture will be to create a global water resource course. The course plans to investigate the water quality and trends of the local water sources of each school. Students will compile the data of each water resource and relay it to the ESA for comparison and analysis.

“The ESA will not just be looking at one watershed area, but they are looking at seven watershed areas and sveeing if the data leads to similar conclusions. It’s just that the more data sets you have, you have a lot more you can understand. Absolutely, the whole point of this program is to share the data,” said Merrill.

In addition to collecting this data, the online course will aim to analyze the social and political effects of water on the current world.

“One of the quotes that you will see in ‘The Economist’ is that the next major war will be about water… Battles to the west of the US are to get the water. The Chinese are in the process of damming the five major rivers that run through Southern Asia. All of South Asia is nervous about what the Chinese are doing with their water,” said Merrill.

In the coming months, administrators from each of the eight schools will review proposals for the two programs and plan to finalize the courses by next fall.