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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 August 2010) . . Page.. 3859 ..

In the questions on notice I asked in February this year, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs advised that the ACT whole-of-government language policy for the ACT would be released and consulted upon from mid-2010. I ask Minister Burch: what is the status of this policy and the timetable for the consultation process? Language education in schools is one small part of addressing language education in the wider community. I look forward to this discussion paper being released and the subsequent consultation.

In discussions between my staff and Ms Porter’s staff, it was noted that Ms Porter had discussed an increased commitment to bilingual education with Minister Barr, and that she felt that it was a good time to raise it given the context of the “Improving ACT public high schools and colleges” discussion paper and review process. I agree. I note, however, that the word “language” is only mentioned in the discussion paper once, and only in passing. I encourage language teachers and other stakeholders to participate in the consultation process on this discussion paper. I hope that the continued support and lobbying of stakeholders in the community, plus advocacy from members in this Assembly, will see an increased commitment from the ACT government to this important part of education.

The ACT Greens support this motion. I look forward to Mr Barr and the Department of Education and Training increasing the numbers of bilingual schools in the ACT, as well as enhancing other language classes and programs delivered in ACT schools.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (11.59): The government is committed to language education as part of a well-rounded education that equips young Canberrans for the future. Our public schools provide courses in eight focus languages, being Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, Korean, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Investing in these language programs will help prepare students for a more globalised future.

This is particularly the case with languages spoken by our closest regional neighbours and trading partners such as Indonesia, Japan, China and Korea. Besides equipping students with the skills they will need to work in various locations across the globe in the future, the study of languages has a more immediate benefit, helping children understand and appreciate the variety of cultures and traditions that make up a vibrant multicultural city such as Canberra.

Current requirements are that all children in ACT public primary schools learn one of eight target languages from term one 2011. The rollout of this policy so far has delivered an increase in the number of students learning a language. In 2007, 12,731 students took a language. In 2010, 18,425 students are taking a language. The number of students learning Japanese, Italian and German has doubled since 2007. And the number of students learning Chinese Mandarin has nearly tripled in the last three years, from 567 to 1,450 in 2010.

The government has successfully supported the introduction of new language programs in public primary schools by providing additional staffing resources to assist

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