Canberra: Bilingual school waits for clear answer on future

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jun 10 16:14:27 UTC 2007

        Saturday, 9 June 2007   *Bilingual school waits for clear answer on
Natasha Rudra

 Parents at Australia's only Italian-English bilingual public school remain
in the dark about the program's future six months after the Government
announced changes to its status. Students at Lyons Primary School learn half
their curriculum in Italian under the language immersion program, which
employs both English and Italian-speaking teachers. However, under the
Government's "Towards 2020" education strategy, Lyons will become an early
childhood annex of Curtin Primary in 2009, and the bilingual immersion
program will be moved to another Canberra school, which has yet to be

Parents at the school have expressed concern about moving the bilingual
program, which has been developed at Lyons Primary over four years. Lisa
Ranshaw, whose daughter attends the school, said most parents wanted to know
how the bilingual program would be integrated into a new school site.

"Those are the kind of questions we have, because you can't just take a
bilingual immersion program and just drop it on another school," she said.

"There's quite a few of us that are afraid that if it moves it will be

Their concerns come after speakers at the Australian Academy of the
Humanities' National Language Summit in Canberra warned Australia faced
falling behind in a multilingual global economy.

A spokesman for ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr said that the department
was working with the Lyons Primary School board and the Italian embassy to
consider an alternative setting for the bilingual program.

"A working group will be established to commence the consultation process
following departmental representation at the next scheduled school board
meeting," he said.

Shadow Education Minister Vicki Dunne, whose son attends Lyons Primary, said
the Government would kill the program by shifting it somewhere else.

She said if the bilingual immersion program was moved to another school in
the area, it risked becoming a stream rather than a school-wide program.

Mrs Dunne said she had spoken to the Italian ambassador on the topic, and
was assured of the Italian Government's support for the program.

"The Italian Government wants to give us money and the ACT Government is
ducking and shoving," she said.

"They will give us more money if we have a language immersion school rather
than a immersion stream in an English-language school."

Mrs Ranshaw said the parents' group needed to know what the Government
planned for the bilingual program.
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