THE Association of Independent Schools of WA (AISWA) deputy director Ron Gorman has welcomed the roll-out of compulsory language programs for Year 3 students in 2018.
In 2015, the Board of the School Curriculum and Standards Authority (SCSA), in consultation with the heads of public and private education, made the decision to make languages compulsory for Year 3 students in public and private schools from 2018.
By 2023, language programs will be compulsory for students from Year 3 through to Year 8.
The Western Australian Curriculum for Languages includes Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian and Japanese.
In 2017, 377 public primary schools and district high schools (which have primary students) are teaching a language program.
Mr Gorman said the policy provided clarity around a minimum compulsory phase, which gave schools who have not got a program plenty of time to establish one and do it well.
“A couple (of schools), due to their remote or regional location have had trouble finding a teacher in the past… but nearly all our schools offer a language,” he said.
“Finding a qualified and quality teacher is always hard but many of our schools have built capacity from within.
“For the past decade, AISWA has annually run a seven-day Languages Methodology course which have given teachers from other learning area who are speakers of other languages the essential skills to teach it… this year we had 20 teachers do the course.”
Mr Gorman said independent schools could offer languages of their communities including Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, Modern Greek, Turkish, Korean and Auslan, as well as revitalising Indigenous languages in Aboriginal community schools.
SCSA chair Emeritus Professor Patrick Garnett said research showed learning another language was beneficial to childrens’ brain development and success at school.
“Learning a language other than English helps students to communicate proficiently in that language by providing them with essential communication skills in that tongue,” he said.
“Language learning broadens students’ horizons and presents personal, social, and employment opportunities in our increasingly interconnected world.”
In 2017, the WA Education Department contacted all public primary schools not teaching a language currently to find out what plans they are putting in place for 2018.
Public schools can employ a language teacher, share a teacher with other schools or up-skill a teacher.
Currently, 42 public schools are doing primary language lessons online through the Department’s School of Isolated and Distance Education where public schools can express their interest to run lessons this way for 2018.
Ninety-two public schools registered for the Department’s Indonesian online program in 2018 and 11 public schools plan to do the external My Chinese Teacher.org online program in 2018.
Catholic Education WA was contacted for comment.