Page 180 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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capable language teachers in ACT government schools”. I guess the word “realistic” is the problem because my idea of realistic may be different to the government’s idea of realistic. In fact, every single person in this room and, indeed, in this city could have a different idea of what is realistic.

Nonetheless, we know this is our wonderful language. This is our English language, folks. It is a language that is the language of politics and it is a language that provides lots and lots and lots of lovely weasel words for politicians to use. “Realistic” is probably one of those. After our discussion, from what I can understand of the political reasons why the government might oppose the second part of my motion, I still do not see any practical reasons. I think, from everything that Mr Barr said today, he is in support of excellent language teaching in schools.

While of course I am very disappointed that the motion will be amended, I am really pleased we have had this debate today because I have heard now probably everything that the government is doing in relation to language. There could be a whole lot more, and I look forward to hearing about that later. But we have gained information in the International Year of Languages, in the week of the multicultural festival.

I want to go back to two things before I finish. First of all, there is the movement of the Lyons Italian immersion program to the Yarralumla Primary School. There is a certain irony here because I used to be the president of the P and C at Yarralumla Primary School and when I was not the president I was highly involved, as many of us single mums are in our children’s education. And right then the Yarralumla Primary School was having conversations with the Italian Embassy about setting up such a program.

I have no idea what has happened in the meantime. I know that at that time Yarralumla Primary School was not interested in the closing down of the Lyons program. It believed that there was a potential to have one in its school and it is, I think, most unfortunate Lyons primary school had to lose theirs for Yarralumla to gain theirs.

To finish with what I think is really the crux of today, because it goes on: the government can introduce more non-English speaking language classes in schools, but what we have here is this curriculum document. And people will remember it is part of my motion and I spent quite a bit of my speech talking about it. I want to reiterate what this curriculum document expects children to achieve in our schools through language education.

In early childhood, children should be able to use greetings and common phrases and simple interactions in different languages, for example, in languages spoken by class members or their families, languages taught in the school. I think that is probably fair enough. Unfortunately, though, what we often find is that kids come out of grade six with simply that knowledge, with no advance on that knowledge. But I applaud all early childhood teachers who use the languages in their classes as a way of learning, because using peers is the best way of learning.

In early adolescence, however, there is no language learning explicitly outlined in the curriculum documents. No 15 is that the student communicates with intercultural

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