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Funding boost for Asian languages an important step

Funding boost for Asian languages an important step for future workforce

The Asia New Zealand Foundation welcomes increased investment in Asian language learning in schools.

The newly announced government fund, worth $10 million over five years, will enable schools to establish new Chinese, Japanese and Korean language programmes, or to expand existing ones.

Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director John McKinnon says the initiative is a good step towards building Asian language capabilities in the New Zealand workforce.

“Given New Zealand’s growing ties with Asia, children and students will need a range of Asia-related capabilities, including language skills, by the time they enter the workforce. Increasingly, those who are multilingual will be advantaged, both in job prospects and in other respects, over those who are monolingual.

“Many countries have been looking at their language education policies as the global economic power shifts towards Asia. In 2012, Australia announced ambitions to have priority Asian languages, which it identified as Chinese, Hindi, Japanese and Indonesian, offered in every school.

Through its network of Asia-equipped schools, the Foundation has had contact with many schools around New Zealand that have taken the initiative to offer Asian languages to students. “But we believe all children in New Zealand should have access to language learning, regardless of where they live, so it’s good to see this investment,” Mr McKinnon says.

“We also think it’s really important that children are given the opportunity to learn languages at the earliest possible age.”

He notes the government funding will target New Zealand’s major Asian trading partners – China, Japan and Korea – as priorities. “In the future it would also be good to see additional resources for Southeast Asian languages, such as Indonesian, which is barely taught in New Zealand. Indonesia is of growing importance to New Zealand.”

Improved access to Asian languages in New Zealand need not, and cannot, come at the expense of te reo Māori, he says. “Children learning te reo Māori are better placed to learn a second and third language than a child who remains monolingual.”

The Foundation’s annual Perceptions of Asia survey, published in March, found New Zealanders consider Chinese the most valuable foreign language to learn.

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, including business, culture, education, media, research and a Leadership Network. The Foundation is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.

To learn more about the Foundation’s Asia-equipped schools programme, visit: http://asianz.org.nz/our-work/educating-asia/becoming-asia-aware

To read the announcement about the funding for Asian languages: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/10m-increase-asian-languages-schools


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