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Proposals for second language learning welcomed

Proposals for second language learning welcomed


The emphasis placed on the teaching of languages in the draft curriculum for primary and secondary schools has been cautiously welcomed by the Association of University Staff (AUS). Unveiled this week by Education Minister Steve Maharey, the proposed new curriculum adds “learning languages” to the existing seven learning areas. If accepted, this will require all schools with Year 7 (Form 1) to Year 10 (Form 4) students to offer classes in a second language – that is, in addition to English and Maori.

While the Government does not intend prescribing what languages it wants taught, Mr Maharey hinted that widely spoken ones, such as Spanish, should be considered. He noted too that Pacific Island language teaching had recently received more Government money, and that the needs of New Zealand’s rapidly growing Chinese and Indian communities should be addressed.

AUS Academic Vice-President, Dr Tom Ryan, said that this is very welcome news for language departments in our universities. “In recent years many tertiary language programmes have suffered from a decline in enrolments, leading to widespread cutbacks in courses and teaching positions, and in some cases the wholesale elimination of programmes,” he said. “Over just the past year, for example, both Waikato and Canterbury arts faculties have suffered such ‘slash-and-burn tactics’.”

Dr Ryan said that the proposals for more second language learning in our schools would clearly require the training of appropriately qualified language teachers, many of whom will need to come through university language departments. “The sector as a whole should welcome this development and see it as an opportunity to reassert the value of language study in education generally,” he said.

Ends

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