Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 November 2018) . . Page.. 5018 ..
see a few Koori preschools in the ACT and a number of our respected Aboriginal elders who do so much to keep our Indigenous language alive. What more support can we be giving them to ensure that the languages of Australia’s first people can live on so that our future generations will be able to benefit from learning about our history and about our culture?
I do note from the minister’s amendment, paragraph 1(h), which surprisingly was circulated before I was on my feet—that never happens—the government is prioritising work on the development of an appropriately localised Aboriginal language education. This is something that I welcome and look forward to hearing more about.
This government, as it does so well, knows how to spin the yarn to say all the right things about being supportive of language education. “We have a policy, we have a pathway plan”—even though it is somewhat unpaved—“and we have a whole heap of supporting material on the website telling us how important language tuition is.” The website tells us that learning a language is apparently a core component of the ACT curriculum framework. It tells us that students who study a language extend their thinking and reasoning skills and they apply these in other areas of learning and in processing knowledge, that it helps students to develop multiple intelligences and that it can assist in the understanding of the structure of English. All these claims are supported by extensive research. An interesting aspect of the research about the value of language to education is that being bilingual helps you to learn about and become more proficient in your first language.
In the last two years the minister has spoken many times about her future of education strategy. So I have to ask: why is there not a single reference to the importance of language education in Canberra schools? It is not in the strategy, not in the consultation report, not in any speeches given, not in answer to a question, not in any interviews and certainly not in adhering to her own policy on language tuition. In a two-year conversation with thousands of people to identify how we move education forward into the future, to have no acknowledgement of how important it is for our students to be best prepared for a global world through education is as short-sighted as it is concerning.
England introduced languages for primary years from ages 7 to 11 as a compulsory subject in 2014, believing that in an increasingly globalised world intercultural and multicultural competence is essential. Given all that, how can a minister who claims her focus for the last two years has been entirely on setting out a 10-year plan for education in the ACT omit to mention even in passing the importance of languages?
This government and this minister have failed to appropriately prioritise or think strategically about the future of language education in Canberra schools. This government and this minister have failed to adequately encourage or support teachers to pursue the appropriate qualifications to teach a second language. This government and this minister have failed to adequately promote the qualifications to teach a second language as being a desirable skill for new teachers, all of which has led to Canberra students not having a consistent language pathway from preschool or kindergarten through to college in the pursuit of the study of a second language.