The Liberals in Canberra have presented a plan to ramp up language teaching in the ACT.
They say that some major languages aren't taught and should be and that there are gaps in the system so pupils can start learning a language only to find that they can't continue later in their school careers.
They have not, however, put a cost on their proposal. They say the first step is an audit to determine demand for different languages and an assessment of the skills of teachers able to satisfy that demand.
The Shadow Minister for Education, Elizabeth Lee, said, "Not a single government school teaches Arabic despite it being the third most commonly spoken language in Australia, and its increasing demand in the public and private sector."
She said Chinese languages were not given enough priority. "Very few government schools teach Mandarin despite it being the fastest growing language in Canberra," she said.
Last year, there was a row when two Year 11 students discovered their school, Narrabundah College, was looking to scrap its long-running Indonesian language course.
It meant the two (who started a petition) would be left in the lurch halfway through their ATAR studies. Such was the outcry that the Indonesian embassy in Canberra voiced its unhappiness.
The cutting of the Indonesia language course was because of a lack of demand. It had been running at Narrabundah for 40 years but there were only 11 students ready to enrol for this year, four short of the school's minimum requirement.
The Liberals believe that the general problem with language teaching in ACT government schools is that it hasn't been given a high enough priority.
"The Canberra Liberals will invest in current and future language teachers with scholarships, exchange programs and travel bursaries,” Ms Lee said.
“We will address the shortfall of language teachers by investing in their education and skills to attract more qualified teachers into language education.”
But costs, a spokeswoman said, could not be assessed before the exact situation was known.
The party mentioned Arabic and the Chinese Mandarin language as two areas of concern. They are major world languages and among the most widely spoken in Australia other than English.
According to the census of 2016, more than a fifth of people living in Canberra speak a language other than English, though sometimes as a second language in addition to English.
The census also showed that 3.7 per cent of Australians speaks either Mandarin or Cantonese, the two main Chinese languages. Arabic is spoken by 1.4 per cent of Australians though the proportion of Canberrans speaking it is much smaller.
The Liberals said that though they had mentioned the Chinese languages and Arabic as being under-taught in the territory, there would be no compulsion on students to learn them were the party to win power.
In November, the ACT government said that it "welcomes the many diverse cultures and languages that contribute to our city."
Minister Chris Steel told the legislative assembly that courses outside government schools were important. "There are a total of 52 language schools," he said.
"Currently, these schools cater for over 2500 students learning a raft of different community languages.
"Across our city, young people are learning to speak fluent Arabic, Bangla, Cantonese, Mandarin, Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Greek, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Tallinn, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Macedonian, Maori, Mon, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Samoan, Serbian, Sinhalese, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Tongan, Vietnamese, just to name a few."
The Liberals argue that a more systematic approach needs to be taken in public schools. Their plan consists of:
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