Asian languages push announced in Canberra
A renewed focus on Asian language learning, starting in the preschool years, was announced yesterday at the Australian National University in Canberra by Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek.
Ms Plibersek said it was important to offer the opportunity of learning an Asian language to more Australian students, describing the Asian region as the fastest growing region on earth. Quoting statistics which say that nine of every ten of the next billion people who will enter the middle class globally live on our doorstep, Ms Plibersek said it was important to ensure more young Australians learn an Asian language and become Asia-literate, in order to take full advantage of economic opportunities now and in future.
The announcement outlined plans by Labor to roll out an eight part initiative, which included a focus on encouraging more Asian language speakers to become Asian language teachers, through providing 100 scholarships per year for people who are native speakers of an Asian language, or who excel in Asian language studies during secondary schooling.
Ms Plibersek said there had been a decline in the number of Australian school students who are studying Asian languages, at least in part because there are too few teachers who are able to teach Asian languages. She also called for a collaborative approach with school communities, principals and other leaders to give children more opportunity to become Asia literate through student exchanges, sister school arrangements, teaching Asian culture, and exposing children to Asian history and art.
“We also need to make sure we are working on our curriculum materials from preschool to Year 12” the minister said. “There are some terrific early years curriculum materials for preschool students, not broadly enough used.”
Calling for a cohesive approach with states and territories, and in collaboration with experts, Ms Plibersek said that it was important to keep students engaged with high-quality curriculum and materials, to avoid students moving away from Asian languages in their later schooling years.
“I am convinced that with this commitment, with this investment, we can ensure more young Australians are prepared for the jobs of the future. We are on the brink of the fastest growing part of the world, in the beginning of the Asian century. We need to make sure our young people are equipped to take advantage of it.”