The Canberra Liberals have claimed that the current pathway to language education in ACT schools is “riddled with cracks and blocks” and have released a range of initiatives aimed at enabling students to study a language right through from pre-school or kindergarten to Year 12.
Opposition spokesperson for education, Elizabeth Lee, said that some languages such as Arabic aren’t even taught in ACT schools despite their significance and many students aren’t able to learn a language consistently throughout their schooling.
“An example that we have is the language of Korean. It is offered in Gold Creek in Year Three and then it’s not offered again in the Government school system until college,” Ms Lee said.
“We want to ensure that our children, if they choose to study a language, have the opportunity and the option to study it from pre-school or kindergarten and to actually do it all the way through their schooling to Year 12 and beyond.”
Ms Lee said that the ACT Government’s future of education strategy does not have a single mention of language education and there is no central record of which languages are being taught in ACT schools.
“Very few government schools teach Mandarin despite it being the fastest growing language in Canberra,” Ms Lee said.
“Not a single government school teaches Arabic despite it being the third most commonly spoken language in Australia, and its increasing demand in the public and private sector.
“We have seen very few government schools teach the Indian languages despite their growing significance to the world and also, of course, the vibrant and dynamic active Indian community we have right here in Canberra.”
Six initiatives to strengthen language education
Ms Lee has released details of six initiatives she said the Canberra Liberals would pursue if they were in government in order to strengthen language education in ACT schools. They are:
- Screen current language programs and available resources Ms Lee said there is currently no central record of what languages are being taught, what language training teachers have or whether specialised language teachers are getting to use their language teaching skills. “We need to do a comprehensive stocktake to learn where the gaps are so we can fill them,” she said.
- Prioritise strategic languages to equip children for a global future “It can’t be a matter of we’ll take this language because it’s the only teacher available,” said Ms Lee. “We need to think about what the best languages are to prepare our children for the global world that they should be excelling in.”
- Streamline language learning “We need to ensure that there is a clear pathway so that there aren’t any blocks and there aren’t any cracks so that a child is able to study one language from pre-school or kindergarten all the way to Year 12 and beyond,” Ms Lee said.
- Invest in the future of language education “The Canberra Liberals will invest in current and future language teachers with scholarships, exchange programs and travel bursaries,” Ms Lee said. “We will address the shortfall of language teachers by investing in their education and skills to attract more qualified teachers into language education.”
- Develop strategic language partnerships Ms Lee said the Canberra Liberals aimed to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with embassies, language teaching groups, associations and academies.
- Compete with the best Ms Lee said that the Canberra Liberals would like to benchmark and measure the success of the ACT’s language education program against the best performers in Australia and the rest of the world.
Individual schools make decisions on languages offered
A spokesperson for ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said there are already diverse offerings of languages in ACT government schools and that the first phase of the future of education strategy includes work on an action plan to improve language education in schools.
“Under the curriculum requirements policy, students are required to study at least one of eight ACT priority languages; Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, French, German, Italian or Spanish,” the spokesperson said.
“Students are required to study 60 minutes per week from years 3-6, and 150 minutes per week in years 7-8.
“Currently, individual schools make decisions about the languages offered, having regard to issues such as demand among the school community and the availability of suitably skilled teachers.”
The spokesperson said that all ACT schools deliver the Australian Curriculum, which has only relatively recently (end 2015) released curriculum for languages beyond the priority languages.
“An Arabic curriculum was only relatively recently released by ACARA as part of the Australian Curriculum. Arabic is also part of the new Early Learning Languages Australia suite of resources for students in year P-2.”
The spokesperson said that the delivery of language education also relies on the availability and retention of suitably skilled teachers, with the future of education strategy set to look at a more coordinated approach to specialist teachers in subjects like languages.
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