Language support strengthened in National Education Plan PDF Print E-mail

FATSIL has welcomed the publication of The National Statement for Languages Education in Australian Schools 2005-2008, with a new focus on support for Indigenous Language teaching programs.

With the combined National Statement and National Plan produced to guide languages teaching over the next four years, the new guidelines clearly outline the responsibility on each state and territory to allocate and report back to the Commonwealth on the use of funds earmarked for Indigenous Language programs.

FATSIL participated in the drafting of the National Plan through a series of workshops and roundtable discussions called to assist the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs in the research and documentation leading to the development of the Plan over the past two years.

The Indigenous Languages focus within the Plan reflects the input of FATSIL, Shane Williams from the MCEETYA Indigenous Education Employment, Training and Youth Taskforce and the supportive national steering committee, to correct past oversights in Commonwealth planning for Indigenous language program funding.

According to FATSIL representative on the Languages Statement and Plan Working Party, Mr Kevin Lowe, the new statement goes a long way towards ensuring that Commonwealth funding for Indigenous Language programs is directed to the areas for which it was intended, and not diverted elsewhere, as too often occurred under more loosely drafted funding guidelines in the past.

From page 1 Students from a wide range of language backgrounds come together at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander School, which caters for students from Prep year through to Year 12.2004 saw the school community celebrate the achievement of the first two students to complete year 12 studies.The subjects chosen by the students included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, which has been approved by the Queensland Studies Authority as an OP Rating subject.

Key points in the National Statement are:

The 'National Developments' section contained the following points:

"The MCEETYA Review found that nationally:'There were 146 languages being taught in both mainstream and non-mainstream school settings.This included:

• 103 languages (including 68 Australian Indigenous Languages) taught in government, Catholic and independent schools
The Review also found that the expansion of languages programs had created significant challenges which still need to be addressed. These include:
• The need for appropriately qualified and trained teachers
• Continuity in languages learning within schools, and
from primary to secondary levels and beyond
• Adequate time allocations
• Supportive timetabling practices
• Resourcing
• Whole school commitment.

There is also an ongoing need to convey to the broader community the real and achievable benefits of effective languages education for all learners."

The Plan recognizes the need for schools to work in partnership with Indigenous communities, and in the section on Provision, identifies "A distinct and explicit presence for Australian Indigenous Languages.
Australian Indigenous Languages have a unique place in Australia's heritage and in its cultural and educational life. For Indigenous learners, they are fundamental to strengthening identity and self-esteem. For non-Indigenous learners, they provide a focus for development of cultural understanding and reconciliation.The choice of which Australian Indigenous Language should be offered requires careful negotiation
with Indigenous people. It also requires recognition of protocols related to language ownership, language maintenance and revival; and acknowledgement of the cultural connections and contexts of languages within Australian Indigenous communities."

The National Plan includes the following Actions.

"Consider areas for further research and development to provide opportunities for ideas and new programs to be developed and tested in challenging environments, to embed change at the local levels and to share the experience nationally.Areas to consider include:

• The unique demands of teaching and learning Australian Indigenous Languages
• The contribution of Australian Indigenous Languages to community led maintenance and revival of Australian Indigenous Languages and cultures"

Under strategies to enhance the provision of appropriately qualified teachers of languages, and addressing issues related to supply and demand, the plan sets as actions:

"identify strategies to recognise and support speakers of Australian Indigenous Languages involved in school languages programs and identify strategies to recognise and support community languages speakers teaching in after hours ethnic/ community languages schooling."

In looking to support high quality, ongoing and structured professional learning programs to enhance the quality of teaching, the National Plan states:
"Explore how to enhance professional learning for personnel involved in the delivery of Australian Indigenous Languages, and of languages taught through after hours ethnic/ community languages schooling."

Copies can be downloaded from the MCEETYA website, www.mceetya.edu.au

How it started?

IN 2002 The national Student Learning and Support Service Taskforce obtained approval to review Languages Education in Australian Schools. The Review Report produced in July 2003 led to MCEETYA endorsing the development of a National Statement on Languages Education and a National Plan for Languages Education.
The National Statement on Languages Education provides an overarching framework for State/ Territory and Commonwealth activities, and a foundation for future work at national and regional levels. The audience is twofold:

I. Ministers of Education, to support them in framing up commitment for action.
2. Regions to use as a reference point.

This is the first national education plan to have endorsement from all Ministers of Education through the MCEETYA process, as previous policy documents have been drafted by the Government of the time.