[lg policy] Australia: Foreign-language teachers push for new strategy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Mon Aug 15 11:02:04 EDT 2016

Foreign-language teachers push for new strategy

   A screenshot of The New York Times Chinese-language website (AAP)

   - [image: A screenshot of The New York Times Chinese-language website]
   - [image: A screenshot of The New York Times Chinese-language website]
   - [image: A screenshot of The New York Times Chinese-language website]

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SBS World News Radio: Teachers of foreign languages are calling for a
national strategy to improve language-learning rates in Australia.
Greg Dyett

14 Aug 2016 - 8:00 PM  UPDATED YESTERDAY 6:30 AM

For decades, policymakers have talked up the importance of foreign
languages, but successive governments have a record of starting and then
dropping programs.

The president of the Modern Language Teachers Association of Victoria says
Australia's failure to have a national languages policy is holding the
country back.

Andrew Ferguson says it is a very real shortcoming.

"I think that's a crying shame when we don't have a languages policy. By
default, it's the Australian curriculum, and that makes some very strong
statements about what languages education should look like and what the
benefits of it are. But at the moment, well, we haven't had a federal
government for decades, really, that's pumped a lot of money into

The University of Melbourne's Dr Yvette Slaughter is the co-author of
Challenging the Monolingual Mindset.

She, too, says Australia is suffering because it lacks a federal language

In Victoria, for instance, it is compulsory for primary schools to teach
foreign languages, but Dr Slaughter says that is not the case in other
parts of the country.

"The state policies that each state have, the requirements, where, in a lot
of states, it's not required at the primary level. In New South Wales, it's
required for a hundred hours only at the secondary level. So there's a very
big lack of policy to really support implementation of language programs,
and there's certainly a lack of a federal language policy. We haven't had
one for a long time."

Their criticisms follow the release of literacy and numeracy test results
showing no significant improvement in Australia since 2015.

In March, Andreas Schleicher, education head at the OECD, the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development, criticised the Australian
education system for falling behind.

His critique came after the release of the results of the Program for
International Student Assessment, a test of 15 year-old students conducted
every three years.

Australia's ranking had declined significantly, with 20 per cent of
students not able to demonstrate basic skills.

Andrew Ferguson from the Modern Language Teachers Association of Victoria
says those results should prompt a rethink of Australia's language-learning

"We've had Naplan flatlining in a number of areas, and we've had decades of
concentration, in particular, in primary on literacy and numeracy. Perhaps
we need to rethink those strategies. The countries that are doing really
well on OECD rankings are ones that have a plethora of subjects, and, in
particular, multilingualism and appreciation of other cultures is built
into the system. It's simply a given. Nobody questions it."


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