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Dallas International School offers global curriculum

By Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Suzanne Sprague, Reporter: At first glance, recess at the Dallas International School seems quite ordinary. Children clad in blue jumpers or slacks squeal and shout, run and jump. But listen a bit more closely.

Child says: Le cherval est tres malade que il a aller au maison.

Adult translates: The horse is very sick. He has to go home (laughs).

Sprague: OK. Maybe she's not ready for Larry King, but Isabella is one of 400 students on this north Dallas campus learning three languages simultaneously: French, English and Spanish. It's a lot for this 7-year-old from Spain, but she and her friends say it's "cool."

Sprague: Why is it cool?

Kids: Because we get to learn more languages instead of just staying with English. You can have a third language or a second language. Like if you're going to travel to another city then finally at least you get to talk with them and understand them.

Sprague: At the Dallas International School, about 55 % of the students, like Isabella, are the children of foreign nationals. The school is part of the century-old Mission Laique Francaise, a French non-profit that works with the French government to operate more than 70 schools in 30 countries. Dozens of other international schools have opened in cities across the U.S., including one in Houston that has more than a thousand students. Dallas headmaster Noelle Delhomme says the curriculum here is modeled after the French school system, but incorporates a number of American elements.

Headmaster Noelle Delhomme: The way we teach history is the way we see history in Europe, not the way you see history here. But we complement that by having American history and Texas history and the American point of view taught in the English class.

Sprague: And by most student accounts, the coursework is quite demanding.

Noemie Delfassy, Senior: We have philosophy, two languages, which for both of us are English and Spanish?

Sprague: Noemie Delfassy is a 12th grader whose family moved here from France eight years ago so her father could work at Texas Instruments. She's also taking history and geography and math and physics and biology?all in French. And the homework?

Noemie: Lots. And lots. And LOTS!

Sprague: It was a logical choice for Noemie's parents to send her here, since it closely resembles what school would be like for her in France. But a growing number of American parents are choosing the Dallas International School as well. It has nearly doubled its student body in the last four years. Sarah Moore of Plano put her son Michael in the school a year and a half ago.

Sarah Moore, Parent: It'll provide him doors later in college, and he'll be marketable. I mean, I'm not thinking about him in 20 years having a job, but he is and if he has a language under his belt, he can do international work. He can be a translator. I mean, he can do almost anything.

Sprague: But Dallas International is not just about learning another or two other languages. The school also places a high value on learning to live in a global environment. That's one of the reasons Laura Alfaro, who is Mexican, sends her son Adreas here.

Laura Alfaro, Parent: I like the language to begin with and I think it's very important for the kids nowadays to learn more than one language and also the diversity of cultures they have here at the school is what I really, really like. He's exposed to different kids from all over the world and hopefully they'll become more tolerant of everything.

Noemie: It's pretty easy to get along.

Sprague: Again, 12th grader Noemie Delfassy.

Noemie: Of course you don't have a choice, but it's also interesting and you're all coming from different parts of the world so you can't pick and be against a specific race or anything because you're all different.

Sprague: As Dallas International continues to grow, it will likely rely more heavily on American-born students. The faltering world economy means fewer corporations are sending their workers and their families abroad. But Noelle Delhomme vows the school will maintain its international spirit both in the classroom and on the playground to prepare its students for a global future. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.


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