With all the rancor surrounding the issue of illegal immigration, it is reassuring that Rock Hill is welcoming qualified teachers from around the world to add a new dimension to local classrooms.
The Visiting International Faculty program is what amounts to a smoothly functioning guest worker program for foreign teachers in American schools. Rock Hill has VIF teachers from the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Argentina and Colombia at elementary, middle and high schools. While the Rock Hill school district is the only one in York County to work with VIF, Chester County also has seven VIF teachers.
Hiring teachers from abroad also is common statewide. The S.C. Department of Education has arrangements with India, France, Spain and China, easing the red tape required to hire teachers from those nations to fill short-term vacancies in state schools. India has sent the largest contingent -- more than 200 teachers -- most of whom specialize in math and science.
The VIF program allows foreign teachers to work in the United States for three years, after which they are required to return to their home countries for at least a year before they become eligible again to teach in the U.S. The state, however, is considering a pilot program that would hire foreign teachers who intend to stay in the United States instead of leaving after three years.
Prospective teachers are carefully screened to ensure they are familiar with the subject matter and proficient in English. They also are tapped for positions that often are hard to fill, such as foreign language instruction.
We are pleased to see an emphasis on foreign language classes as part of the traditional curriculum. In too many schools, foreign language studies have languished either because of lack of interest on the part of students or lack of teachers.
This occurs as other nations have emphasized the importance of learning foreign languages -- especially English -- as a skill needed in an increasingly global economy. The failure of U.S. schools to stress foreign language studies puts our students at a competitive disadvantage.
Inviting teachers from abroad to work in local classrooms also exposes students to people of other cultures. Foreign teachers can teach students not only the language but also the traditions, arts and geography of their home countries.
We hope that adventurous Americans are doing the same thing in classrooms in other nations, teaching children about our culture. The teacher exchanges ultimately benefit all nations involved, giving students a better sense of what life is like in another country.
We welcome these visiting teachers to Rock Hill and hope more of them will choose to share their skills here in years to come.
Teachers involved in exchange program offer students lessons in cultural awareness.
What do you think about this editorial? Come to community.heraldonline.com and tell us.