Asian languages need to be boosted in NZ schools
Asian languages need to be boosted in NZ schools –
Asia New Zealand Foundation
Tuesday, 5 March, 2013
Every New Zealand child should be given the chance to learn an Asian language if our country is to succeed internationally, the Asia New Zealand Foundation says.
A report made public today by the Royal Society of New Zealand – “Languages in Aotearoa New Zealand” - highlights New Zealand’s “superdiversity”, with more than 160 languages spoken. http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/expert-advice/information-papers/yr2013/upcoming-languages-in-aotearoa-new-zealand-paper/
But the report also reveals the need for a coordinated approach to language learning and teaching.
Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director John McKinnon says it is vital for New Zealand’s economic, cultural and political interests that Asian languages are more widely taught in New Zealand. “Parents need to see to that having their children learn Asian languages will improve their future prospects.”
Other countries are already developing policies to boost the availability of Asian languages in schools, he says. The Australian Government’s 2012 “Australia in the Asian Century” white paper outlined requirements for every school to teach a priority Asian language.
“Even countries outside the Asia-Pacific are looking at Asian languages,” Mr McKinnon says. “The Swedish government has asked its National Education Agency to develop a new curriculum for Chinese in its schools.
“Countries across the world are now investing in Asian languages. This is a wake-up call for New Zealand.”
Mr McKinnon says the number of New Zealand children learning Chinese has grown steadily in the past decade, at both primary and secondary level. But only a minority of schools offer the language. Meanwhile, other key Asian languages are barely taught in New Zealand at all.
“Of particular concern is Indonesian. Indonesia is New Zealand’s nearest Asian neighbour, the world’s fourth most populous country, and has a rapidly growing economy.
“But Ministry of Education statistics show no New Zealand secondary students were studying Indonesian last year.”
Mr McKinnon, who learnt Chinese while working as a diplomat, says improved access to Asian languages does not have to come at the expense of European languages. The Asia New Zealand Foundation would like to see all New Zealand children having access to choices for foreign languages, as well as Te Reo Maori.
“Asia New Zealand Foundation recognises that there has to be qualified teachers who can operate in the New Zealand education system.
“Obviously this is not going to happen immediately, but we need to take a medium-term approach and invest in the future of our children.”
Society’s paper points out that research has shown
learning another language at school improves performance
right across the curriculum.
Foreign language learning in secondary schools
July 2012 secondary school roll returns:
Full figures are available on the Education Counts website: http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/statistics/international/students-international-learning2
The Asia New Zealand Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to building New Zealand’s links with Asia through a range of programmes. The Foundation’s education programme helps schools make sure their students have Asia Aware skills, which include knowing about the peoples and countries of Asia, knowing an Asian language and having intercultural awareness.