Australia Losing the Asian Language

by Bob Sheth on June 4, 2010

in Education in Australia

New reports show a decline in Asian language education in schools in Australia.

The Government released four recent reports on the current position of Asian language education in Australian schools. The studies prove students are shying away from enrolling in Asian language studies.

However, the Rudd Government said that they are committed to fix the decline by committing $62.4 million over a four-year period up to 2012 to increase funding for Asian Education Programs.

Hoping to stem the tide of the decline, the government is aiming to increase the number of students learning Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and Korean languages and cultures under Australia’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP).

The reports indicate an alarming rate of decrease in the number of students in Australia studying an Asian language in schools, particularly at the secondary level.

A similar report conducted by the Asia Education Foundation at Melbourne University revealed that between the years 2000 and 2008 the number of Australian students studying one of the four Asian languages went down from 24 per cent to 18.6 per cent.

The decline coincided with the period during which the Howard government scrapped a major Asian language’s school program in 2002.

The study finds that the Indonesian language could be phased out at the grade 12 levels as early as 2020 if the current number of students enrolling on the subject continues to drop.

Academic experts in each of the languages were commissioned to write the reports in conjunction with the Asia Education Foundation, funded through the Australian Government’s School Languages Program.

The three reports on Japanese, Indonesian and Korean languages supported an earlier report on Chinese language education, showing similar deterioration of the Asian Studies School Program of the government.

The results of the reports would provide valuable baseline data and evidence, which will be used in informing future policy makers on shaping national initiatives aimed to increase the number of students studying Asian languages.

The Australian Government considers learning languages other than English, particularly Asian languages, a very important part of Australia’s future security and economic prosperity in an increasingly globalized world.

In a 2006, a census reported that 1,696,568 Australian residents said they belonged to an Asian ethnic background, representing 6.7% of all responses.

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