Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2362 ..
substantial enrolments. Fifty per cent of the time the kids would be learning in a foreign language; it would not matter whether you were rich or poor or hearing impaired, you could still learn another language. It was a great achievement that these kids had under their belt.
Then along came Andrew Barr and Towards 2020. Since then the enrolments have been gradually falling. The other day they said, “We set it out in our submissions in Towards 2020. We want the opportunity and the support from the government to make this school work. If, in five years time, we have not succeeded, they can close us down. But give us the opportunity and give us the resources and have one person in the department of education actually think that we are doing a good job.” They have no support; they have never had support. They have been grudgingly allowed to do what they did for years.
I actually think that it was just too difficult for the department of education. They never really liked the idea of Telopea and they did not want to have another school that was, in some sense, elitist. They did not want to have bilingual education in the ACT. Dr Foskey is right that we undervalue language learning and that the one hour a week of enculteration and language learning that most children learn in primary school is a waste of their time. It is a waste of public money and a waste of resources because it is not enough. They do not remember from one week to the next what they learnt because one hour a week is not enough.
Any language teacher worth their salt will tell the minister this. He really should be listening to the language teachers, who want to make a difference. Language teachers are very committed people and they do not have that commitment reciprocated by the government in the ACT. That is borne out by the absolute failure of this government to embrace an innovation—a small, struggling school that was turning around its enrolments and doing something good for its local community and the wider education service. This minister is happy to run it into the ground.
All they asked from this government was five years and a fair shake and if, after five years and a fair shake from Andrew Barr and his officials, they could not make a go of it, well, they would have failed and they would walk away from the experiment having learnt from the experience. This government is too mean spirited to give the community five years to innovate in education.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.55 am): I thank members who have contributed to the debate. As always, there is an interesting array of views in the education portfolio. I welcome the diversity that we see in this chamber on these matters.
Dr Foskey: I actually thought there was a fair bit of agreement.
MR BARR: Obviously, you were not listening to the contributions made by Mr Mulcahy. There is, as there always is in this place, a diversity of views on the particular issues that confront the education system. I welcome the acknowledgement from Dr Foskey, Mr Mulcahy, Mr Seselja and Mrs Dunne of the range of initiatives