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National backs second language debate

Dr Nick Smith National Education Spokesperson

17 June 2003

National backs second language debate

New Zealand should consider making the study of a second language compulsory at intermediate schools, says National Education Spokesperson Dr Nick Smith, in response to a report released on the school curriculum.

"Second language skills are critical to expanding New Zealand's exports, recognising that we are a multicultural society, and extending our children academically," he said.

"New Zealand has very low levels of students learning additional languages relative to other countries like Australia and the United Kingdom. This must be addressed if we wish to be internationally competitive.

"National wants to see a second language policy that maximises choice and diversity. We want to see a wide range of languages being taught to support our strong trading and cultural links.

"A decision to make second language compulsory at intermediate age would require a huge number of additional teachers skilled in languages.

"This could be achieved by our teacher training institutions and by expanding teacher exchange programmes, but would require a long lead time. This reinforces the need for a broad political consensus about such a major education policy change and is why National is encouraging the Government to develop a long-term approach.

"We support expanding second language skills but it must not detract from the most important challenge of ensuring every child leaves school competent in English," Dr Smith said.


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