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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 13 February 2008) . . Page.. 178 ..

MR SPEAKER: Order, members! The question before the house is that the amendment be agreed to. If there are no other speakers, Dr Foskey may close the debate as well.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (3.46): I seek leave to speak again. I will speak for five minutes only. I guarantee to be brief.

Leave granted.

MR BARR: I reiterate the points that I made this morning. The government has given a commitment to high-quality language education programs, Mr Speaker. We do invest significant funds. Looking very quickly at the detail, there are 125 fully funded teaching positions within the ACT public education system dedicated to language teaching. So a quick rule of thumb is that at least $12.5 million is provided in direct funding to teaching of languages, including salaries and on costs. We are also providing the additional $300,000.

There are a couple of other initiatives, Mr Speaker, that I would like to highlight, relating to the new curriculum framework and our engagement with a number of embassies to bring additional resources to the public education system. We are reaching agreement with a number of foreign governments and embassies to assist us in supporting language acquisition and intercultural understanding in schools.

I can advise the Assembly that one such imminent agreement is with the Peoples Republic of China, and it is anticipated that this year we will have a fully qualified language assistant who will come to Canberra and work in high schools, colleges and primary schools as a linguistic and cultural assistant.

The department of education is also about to conclude a second memorandum of understanding with the Republic of Indonesia, and this agreement will allow Indonesian postgraduates who are already living in Canberra to be language assistants in primary schools, high schools and colleges. This is another ground-breaking initiative that will only be available to students here in Canberra.

We have a range of other current, no-less significant arrangements with the embassies of Spain, France and Italy. And in the history of these bilateral understandings, many schools in Canberra have benefited from the international context of our city. Obvious examples are the Telopea Park school, Mawson primary, the Mandarin immersion classes and of course the support of the Italian Embassy for the bilingual program that is currently in line and that will move to Yarralumla in 2009.

Of course, one of the many benefits of our sister-city relationship with Nara, Japan, is that our schools have, for many years, received Japanese language interns who have lived in home-stay situations and who have provided insight into the teaching of Japanese within our school systems.

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