Graduating language teachers to bridge gap between Asian Century rhetoric and classrooms

2 November 2012

A community language teacher-training program offered by the University of Sydney could be an answer to the huge gap in Australia between government rhetoric and language education.

Despite the rhetoric of the federal government's recent Asian Century white paper, the problem remains that federal policy goals have not translated into continuing funded programs in each state, so a lack of resourcing prevails.

Less than 12 percent of Year 12 students in Australia study a language compared with 50 percent in the US and UK.

Yet community language schools now teach over 100,000 children in after-hours schools across Australia and are run by parents and community groups.

This Sunday, 209 volunteer teachers of languages including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, Thai, Vietnamese, Tamil, Arabic and Hindi will graduate in the MacLaurin Hall at the University of Sydney.

The teachers have successfully completed the Certificate in Language Teaching, a 60-hour course to teach one of 58 languages in the NSW Community Languages Schools.

A recent study of teachers in community languages schools by Associate Professor Ken Cruickshank, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, showed that 40 percent of the 2000 community language teachers in NSW have unrecognised qualifications from overseas, and with suitable upgrading courses could be qualified to teach in Australian schools.

"Forty percent of these volunteers are engineers, architects and teachers, for example. For many, teaching is the first step using their skills and training in Australia," Associate Professor Cruikshank, who runs the program, said.

"They are a hidden treasure, a valuable resource for the country."

Associate Professor Cruickshank is running a three-year ARC-funded study with colleagues from Sydney and Wollongong Universities and UTS investigating ways education systems can build on the languages resources in schools and communities and to address some of the problems of teaching languages in schools.

Professor Rob Tierney, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, who is opening the graduating ceremony this Sunday, said: "The community languages program represents an extraordinary partnership between the university, government, schools, families and individuals."

The keynote speakers in the graduating ceremony are Greg Prior, NSW Deputy Director-General of Education, and Jozefa Sobski, Chair of the NSW Community Languages Board.

Two teachers, Anushiya Kannan and Dana Al Mousa, will also talk about the challenges of studying, raising families and often holding down one or two jobs while teaching in the schools.

Event details

What: Graduation Ceremony for Community Languages Teachers

When: 1 to 3pm, Sunday 4 November

Where: MacLaurin Hall, the Quadrangle

Visit the Community Language Program website.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Enquiries: To interview graduating teachers or for more information about the community language program contact Ken Cruickshank 0422 492 952

Other media enquiries: Jacqueline Chowns, 0434 605 018,