The Canberra Liberals have unveiled six initiatives that a Canberra Liberals Government would pursue to “strengthen language education” and “improve the language diversity” in ACT schools.
“The lingual diversity of our rich multicultural community should be reflected in language programs available to ACT school students,” Shadow Education Minister Elizabeth Lee said.
The initiatives include: screening of current language programs and available resources, to “learn where the gaps are so we can fill them”; investing in the future of language education through scholarships, exchange programs and travel bursaries for teachers; developing strategic language partnerships with embassies, language teaching groups, associations and academies; and setting a benchmark to measure language success against the rest of the country and the world, to “compete with the best”.
Ms Lee also said the Canberra Liberals would prioritise “strategic” languages, such as Mandarin and Arabic, in preparation for a “global future”. She said a strategic approach to language education would prepare children for a “skilled and competitive international job market”.
Another initiative would see language learning “streamlined” in schools to allow for consistency for students throughout their schooling.
“Currently, students aren’t always able to learn a language consistently throughout their schooling,” Ms Lee said.
She said the Canberra Liberals would create pathways that would enable students to study the same language “from Kindergarten to Year 12”.
Ms Lee has previously been vocal on this issue, last year calling on the ACT Government to establish an action plan to improve language education in Canberra schools.
“Very few government schools teach important languages like Mandarin or any Indian language, despite these countries having a significant population in the ACT, and being significant trading partners with Australia.
“Not one government school teaches Arabic despite Arabic being the third most commonly spoken language in Australia, and its increasing demand in both public and private sectors,” she said in November, and repeated again this week.
Ms Lee said knowing a second language will be a valuable skill for future generations, and highlighted the need to support teachers to pursue qualifications to teach a second language.
2016 Census data shows that 23.8% of ACT households spoke a language other than English at home, which includes Mandarin (3.1%), Cantonese (1%) and Hindi (0.9%).