AN interesting discussion held the floor during our dinner party on the weekend and I’m interested to hear the Gold Coast community’s input.
The Queensland Minister for Education, John-Paul Langbroek, recently announced an expansion of the compulsory LOTE program in schools from Year 6-8 to include Year 5 by 2015 and prep by 2025. LOTE, for the uninitiated, stands for Languages Other Than English.
The Minister went on to explain that state schools decide which language to offer in consultation with the school community. That caught our attention.
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In the USA, Spanish is the standard second language. In many Asian and European countries, it is English. But in Australia, we have a choice – maybe too much choice.
ACARA, the national curriculum, assessment and reporting body, are continuously developing curriculum for a plethora of languages with Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Arabic as well as a framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages recently released.
It left our group pondering over a bottle or two of red – how does the local school community make the decision?
Should it be representative of the migrants who have settled in the area in order to foster social and cultural understanding?
That would make Maori, a South African language or Hindi the most relevant languages to learn on the Gold Coast.
Should it take a futures approach by preparing students for the globalised world we live in?
In this case, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world followed by Hindi and then English and Arabic.
Should learning a second language in school be strategic in supporting our leading trading partners and closest neighbours?
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading (DFAT) that would make Mandarin and Indonesian the most important languages for Australians to learn.
Should it reinforce the heritage of our local area?
There are many Aboriginal dialects dying out because younger generations are not learning them anymore. The Yugambeh language of Aborigines in the Logan/Beenleigh/Beaudesert region is an exception and is making a comeback thanks in part to two local schools teaching the language.
Should it simply be seen as an opportunity to strengthen literacy and enhance learning as research claims it does?
In this case, mastery is not as important as the actual learning process so pick a language, any language.
Then of course there are the practical questions.
If every school gets to choose, what happens when a student transfers or transitions to high school? And what about that percentage of students who are struggling with basic literacy and numeracy? Is a second language really a priority at all?
What language do you think Gold Coast kids should be learning at school?
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