Monday, June 15, 2009

Malaysia Switches language to English, Australia offers Asian languages at primary school

This could be another step towards being truly Asia.

New South Wales Primary schools to change languages for lessons


SOME NSW primary schools will soon offer students a bilingual education, with subjects taught in Asian languages.

The NSW Government is funding the four-year $2.25 million program in tomorrow's state Budget, with the first four schools to start offering the stream next year.

Schools will have to apply to be part of the program, which will be taught by specialist teachers and run alongside the standard English curriculum.

NSW Education Minister Verity Firth said that with Asia on the doorstep, the program was vital to the state's future economic and social prosperity.

"We are preparing the future workforce to be fluent in key Asian languages including Mandarin, Korean, Japanese and Indonesian," she said.

Ms Firth said research showed the best way to master a language was to start early.

She said students would devote 90 minutes each day to language lessons starting in kindergarten, and the language would then be integrated into other subjects.

"For example, students will learn the grammatical components of Mandarin and will also be taught other subjects such as creative arts, health and technology in that language," she said.

She said specialist teachers would have to be native speakers trained in primary education.

"We are committing extra resources for schools to excel and these specialist language teachers will be employed in addition to normal staffing allocations," she said.

Ms Firth said the first four schools would be announced in the "near future".

A independent report last week said Australia needed to quadruple the number of students learning Asian languages in order to compete with other nations.

The Griffith Asia Institute report claims Australia faces a looming skills crisis and a decline in international status unless half the population learns an Asian language by 2040.

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