Protect foreign language classes

The cost of getting rid of small foreign language classes outweighs the cost of keeping them.


Marika Adamopoulos

Johnathan Burkhardt/THE CHIMES

Jacqueline Lewis, Writer

In this semester’s budget, it looks like small classes did not make the cut.

For Spring 2016, Swahili, Russian and Arabic amongst other classes with low enrollment, were cut from the course catalog. This left students who had already planned their schedules with these classes scrambling to fill out the paperwork to find some way to continue their chosen language path.

Seeking Greater Affordability

In previous years, Biola set a loose goal to have at least 10 students in each class, but this guideline allowed for many exceptions. However, as Biola sought greater affordability for students, the university increased the minimum to 15 students per class, although still allowing exceptions — just not for some foreign languages.

Balancing the budget of a tuition-based university to keep it affordable for students is no easy task and as a student, I am grateful Biola is looking for ways to cut costs and run more efficiently because it shows they care about their students. But cutting small classes, especially language classes, is not the best place to make the cuts.

The Vital Nature of Classes

If the goal of a university is to educate students, the classes — where the learning actually occurs — is the most vital part. It is not organic food or effective parent relations or new dorms with a variety of amenities that make education successful — although they are all good things. It is in the students interacting with and processing new ideas, new words and new information with the help of a dedicated teacher to guide them.

Small classes are especially conducive to this process as they increase student engagement and improve academic performance, according to the National Council of Teachers of English. With fewer students, teachers can spend more time with individual students and give higher quality and quantity of feedback to each one.

Communicative Competency

This is especially ideal, even necessary in language courses. If communicative competency is the goal when learning a foreign language, communication between teacher and student is hindered in a large class size. Students can still speak with each other in small groups in big classes, but enabling students to speak to professors directly and receive feedback directly is much more effective.

Additionally, it is common knowledge that learning foreign languages has a variety of benefits. These range from making yourself more hireable in the job market to improving cognitive function and decreasing your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to The Telegraph.

Equipping Students Well

Learning languages from around the globe is not only important for personal reasons — it should be important to Biola’s mission as well. If they wish to equip their students to impact the globe for Jesus Christ, then enabling students to learn a variety of languages is an integral part of that task. If Biola claims to be missionally minded, they cannot only be so for Spanish and English-speaking nations. People around the world still need to hear the Gospel, and many students come to this school hoping it will teach them the languages needed to communicate the Gospel to the certain people group God has put on their hearts.

So yes, keeping upper division foreign language classes will be financially costly, but the cost of not offering those languages will impact much more than finances.

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