Page 145 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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Education—school language programs

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.53): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) acknowledges:

(a) the significant social and economic benefits of a multilingual and multicultural society;

(b) the crucial role of high quality school language programs in supporting such a society; and

(c) the need for all of us to engage with and learn from other cultures; and

(2) calls on the ACT Government to ensure that:

(a) a key element of the curriculum delivered in ACT schools is an engagement with other cultures through learning an additional language;

(b) sustained, and meaningful language learning experiences are provided for all students in ACT schools; and

(c) priority is given, through realistic funding and support, to attracting and retaining qualified and capable language teachers in ACT government schools.

As we have all already acknowledged, this is the International Year of Languages, and that is interesting for Australia because we still have a large number of native languages, although many of them are disappearing. We have a diverse population with myriad first languages from all over Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and, like Ms Porter, I hope that there will now be resources to assist communities to document the languages and to create dictionaries. I know that work has taken place here in the ACT and there is a project already ripe for the funding.

On the other hand, our population in general is monolingual and our education system, despite many words to the contrary, is less and less committed to language teaching. There are good arguments for greater support for language teaching in the community. There are ways that as a multicultural community we can better support the work of native speakers and the efforts to ensure that their children grow up bilingual. There are important tasks we can take on in supporting and nourishing the extraordinarily diverse native languages that still survive in Australia and are a living part of our national heritage, and some of those issues of course are for another debate.

This motion is really about putting the argument for a greater, more committed and more thoughtful approach to language teaching in our schools. I first need to put the case for teaching and learning languages. A few years ago, Australian education systems cast languages as one of the eight key learning areas, along with maths, science, English, the arts, society, physical education and technology. These key learning areas still underpin our approach to education, and language is up there

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