Australia: TWO Federal Labor politicians have spoken out against their own party's policy on bilingual education.

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Dec 15 16:57:44 UTC 2008

Mind your language, Labor


December 15th, 2008

TWO Federal Labor politicians have spoken out against their own
party's policy on bilingual education. Senator Trish Crossin has
written to the NT Government and urged the Education Minister to
postpone changes to bilingual education. Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon
agreed with Senator Crossin and said the government's education policy
was "questionable". Senator Crossin said there was "inconclusive
evidence" to support the government's position on bilingual education.
 "I would urge you to postpone your decision to have the first four
hours a day in English and commission some up to date research into
the matter," she said.

Mr Snowdon said he had been a supporter and advocate of bilingual
education for three decades. "There needs to be a discussion to see if
the outcomes of bilingual education are not jeopardised," he said. Mr
Snowdon said bilingual education worked - even if this was not
reflected in literacy and numeracy data. "I think there are other ways
of achieving these results. But let's not throw the baby out with the

Mr Snowdon said these views were represented to him by his
constituents.  He said successive Territory governments had been
cutting resources to bilingual education since self-government and the
programs needed more staffing and funding to work.  "You have to work
with these communities."  Mr Snowdon was critical of the Territory
Government's policy to only teach in English for the first four hours
of school in remote communities, despite its endorsement from Deputy
Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"English is the language of further learning and English is the
language of work, and if we want indigenous kids who are growing up
today right across the Northern Territory, right across the nation, to
have a chance to do an undergraduate degree, do a postgraduate degree,
go out and get a good job, then people need to read and write
English," Ms Gillard said. "They need to be able to do it at the level
that further education requires, and at the level that work requires."
Mr Snowdon said he was unaware of Ms Gillard's support for the
Territory Government policy. The NT Government announced the policy
shift in October despite criticism from the unions and Human Rights
Commissioner Tom Calma.
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