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Bilingual education in Canberra

By interestedme - 8 June 2010 6

I am keen to send my kids to a school offering bilingual education if possible. 

Does anyone have any feedback on Telopea park or Yarralumla for kids who come from non bilingual families. 

In particular, I haven’t heard too much about how the bilingual Italian teaching is going at Yarralumla primary.  Are the kids doing well and picking up the language okay and finding it works well in terms of learning the broader curriculum.  How many years has the bilingual program been going at Yarralumla and what is the school culture like and the teachers?

Any feedback from parents who have kids at either of these school would be really appreciated.

What’s Your opinion?


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6 Responses to
Bilingual education in Canberra
globaltraveler 12:19 pm 10 Jun 10

Both of my children attend Yarralumla Primary School and are enrolled in the bilingual program. One of my children is in year 4 and has been involved in the program since she was in Kindy (when the program was run at Lyons). The other is in Year 1 so has been doing the program for two years. We do not speak Italian at home. My husband and I are both fully English speakers but we see the benefit of the children being bilingual in any other language.

The program at Yarralumla differs to Telopea in many ways but the main way is that at Yarralumla the students learn the ACT curriculum just as they would in any other ACT public school (I understand that Telopea teaches the French curriculum). It is just that at Yarralumla the ACT curriculum is taught half of the week in English and half of the week in Italian. So this means that the children are learning maths concepts or science concepts in Italian and then may have them reinforced in their English class times.

The Italian teachers at Yarralumla only speak to their students in Italian, whether that is in the classroom or on the playground. They are all native speaking Italian teachers which means the students are learning ‘authentic’ Italian.

The program has only been running at Yarralumla for two years and we are still in a transition phase. There are two classes of bilingual Kindergarten students and two classes of bilingual Year Ones. Then there is one Year 2 bilingual class, a 3/4 composite bilingual class and a 5/6 composite bilingual class. If current enrolments continue as we hope, then future year intakes will be fully bilingual as well.

Yarralumla Primary is a small school (around 200 students total) which means the students all know each other and support each other. It is a friendly place with a good community atmosphere. A large proportion of the students are from out-of-area as parents choose to send their children to the bilingual program.

Studies on bilingual students show that their English skills can dip around year 3 (and this has been shown by NAPLAN results) but that by Year 5, not only have these students caught up but for the most part have higher NAPLAN scores in English than monolingual students.

As far as their Italian skills, by year 6, the students have been able to get distinctions and high distinction on Year 10 High School Italian exams.

I would encourage you to check out Yarralumla Primary for yourself. And I’m happy to answer any other questions you (or others) might have about the program.

carnardly 3:11 pm 09 Jun 10

Try having a signing Deaf kid get an education in this city. Duffy Primary set up a pilot program about 5 years ago in a similar vein (I presume) to the Telopea School.

It lasted 12 months. As I understand, there are no qualified teachers of the Deaf in the ACT and no (or minimal) qualified sign language interpreters working in the schools with Deaf kids. They have “teacher’s aides” who may have dubious skills as they won’t pay interpreters what they’re worth. Surely, you should put the well qualified people in schools to get these kids on the correct path from the outset.

CraigT 7:29 am 09 Jun 10

If you want to get involved with insufferable try-hard posers, by all means enrol your children at Telopea.

Funky1 1:04 pm 08 Jun 10

We have 2 children who are in the Italian program at Yarralumla, but similar longshanks above our kids come from a partially bilingual household (mother speaks italian & english, father speaks english – or tries to from time to time).

The program is relatively new at Yarrluamla, having moved from Lyons Primary before the school was to be re-developed as an Early Childhood Centre. The program is not currently mandatory at Yarrlumla. Children who do the program are immersed in Italian for 2 1/2 days each weeek and in English the other 2 1/2 days. Each class has a native english speaking teacher and a native italian speaking teacher. Our kids love going to the school and find the place very friendly.

Separate to the formal program, there are also italian language classes run out of the school annex on weekends for both school-aged children and adults.

The school does run information evenings from time to time, so if you are interested in finding out more about the program, best to contact the school direct.

One thing I have heard about Telopea (and perhaps someone else can confirm or correct me on this) is that you need to have some connection with France or a french-speaking country for your children to be accepted as students. You can’t just walk in and ask to register them so they can learn french.

Postalgeek 12:30 pm 08 Jun 10

Judging from the entertaining standard of English on the internet, I’ll be happy for my kids to master one language. Having said that, it’s a shame there aren’t Asian bilingual schools (that I am aware of) in Canberra. It would be good for a child to gain a command of tones early.

longshanks 11:30 am 08 Jun 10

Our eldest was already bilingual before going to Telopea, so our perspective is perhaps not exactly what you’re after….

Having said that, having spoken with a number of non bilingual parents over the last couple of years, I’d say that a couple of key threads emerge:

1) French immersion is genuine immersion – kids in kindy have 4 days a week in French, and one day in English. And during that one English day, they are expected to make as much progress in reading and writing as kids at ‘normal’ schools, who have 5 days a week in English. It’s pretty intense for a 5 yr old who is also trying to come to terms with a foreign language environment during the rest of the week.

2) The French teachers are products and exponents of the French education system, which is very different from school in Australia. We’ve found that communication between teachers and parents is very limited.

3) French teachers come over from France, and as the French school year runs from September to June, this means that there is a turnover of French teachers halfway through the year. So we’ve just discovered that our son will have a new teacher next term. It’s not the end of the world, but it is disruptive.

4) French parents at Telopea seem to fall into two categories: there are those (like my wife) who are here more or less permanently, and recognise the advantages that life in Canberra has to offer to families with young children who actually want a life. And there are those who are temporarily banished to this culturally deprived hellhole, and can’t wait to get back to la belle France, where the streets are paved with gold (not to mention copious amounts of dogsh*t!), where good food and good wine are ends in themselves (not just a means to get fat and pissed), and where you don’t have to deal with English speakers all the time. Don’t expect to make lots of friends amongst this second category of parents!

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