[lg policy] Australia: Languages study comes under scrutiny

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 7 15:45:38 UTC 2014

 Languages study comes under scrutiny
By Eva Tejszerski Nov. 28, 2013, 6:10 a.m.

   - [image: Special skills: (From left) Gabriella Cofini, Brigette Lo and
   Carolena Kostas will study a language for their HSC next year. Danebank’s
   head of languages, Jennifer Alfonso (right), wants more languages studied
   in senior secondary schools. Picture: Jane Dyson]

   Special skills: (From left) Gabriella Cofini, Brigette Lo and Carolena
   Kostas will study a language for their HSC next year. Danebank’s head of
   languages, Jennifer Alfonso (right), wants more languages studied in senior
   secondary schools. Picture: Jane Dyson

AUSTRALIA is increasingly multicultural, yet student participation in
school foreign language courses remains low.

It is a worrying trend identified by the NSW Board of Studies which hopes
it will change after the new national curriculum is launched.
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As part of its review into languages education, the board is consulting
with schools on how languages can attract more enrolments, particularly at
HSC level.

NSW does not have a language policy for schools.

Almost half the metropolitan NSW primary schools have a language program,
but only about 10percent of students study one in their HSC.

This is despite 63 senior secondary language courses available on offer as

Teachers said many students perceived languages as ‘‘too difficult’’, or
believed they could get higher marks doing other subjects.

But the biggest factor highlighted in the board’s discussion paper was the
scarcity of language teachers.

The board said while there were many teachers who spoke a language other
than English, they were not being utilised to teach it.

In the shire some schools have no choice but to send students off-site to
learn a language.

But that was not necessarily a bad thing, said Tony Ginestra, curriculum
co-ordinator at De La Salle Senior College, Cronulla.

‘‘We are a senior school specialising in years 11 and 12, which means
students come from a variety of feeder schools with a diversity of language
education backgrounds,’’ he said.

‘‘By offering a variety of choices through external providers, students can
capitalise on previous learning at their high schools.’’

Croatian, Italian, Hungarian and Spanish were taken up by students at the
college in recent years, through Open High School

and Saturday School of Community Languages.

‘‘These choices tend to reflect the Catholic communities in the shire that
choose our school system,’’ Mr Ginestra said.

Increasing ethnic diversity in the shire had led to demand for more diverse
language education.

‘‘Students who were born in Australia are now often interested in studying
the language spoken by their overseas-born parents and grandparents.’’

He said students accessed the college’s resources to stay in touch with
their off-site tutors.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority is developing
syllabuses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian,
Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Spanish and Vietnamese, and a framework

for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Consultation on the board’s review ends on December 13.


 In years 7–10, NSW students are required to do 100 hours of language

But when they reach year 11 few choose a language as an elective.

It is a different experience at Danebank Anglican School for

Girls, Hurstville.

Head of languages, Jennifer Alfonso, said the school had a strong tradition
of continuing languages to senior level.

All students studied Japanese and then students opted to study French or
German at school or by distance education.

‘‘We always get repeaters in year 11 and 12 who do the beginner course,’’
she said.

‘‘We actually pick up more students then because they realise languages
will be useful later.’’

Ms Alfonso said many languages graduates continued their skills in
university, in international studies, law, or other languages.

Brigette Lo is Chinese, but she is studying Japanese and aims to be

a doctor.

‘‘We’re in a multicultural society so having the ability to learn a
language at school is good break from other subjects,’’ she said.

Carolena Kostas started learning German after her mother, who is Austrian,
encouraged it.

Gabriella Cofini studies Italian online through distance education.
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‘‘Most of my relatives don’t speak English well, so it’s a good skill that
comes in handy,’’ she said.

*Do you think there should be better language policies in schools?*
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