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Labour Kills Second Language Bill

Labour’s move to kill a National Member’s Bill to give primary and intermediate schools the tools to teach a second language is narrow-minded and misses a golden opportunity to equip our kids with greater language skills, National’s Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

Labour had previously supported National’s second language learning bill that would enable primary and intermediate schools to offer a second language from a list of 10, which must include te reo and New Zealand Sign Language.

“Labour’s problem with the Bill is that it offers choice, when they believe there should only be one choice for the second language – te reo.

“One minute Labour MPs are celebrating Samoan language week in Parliament, next minute they are killing a piece of legislation that would better equip schools to teach Samoan – or Hindi, or Mandarin, or Tongan, or Punjabi or any number of languages widely spoken in communities around New Zealand.

“They appear to have agreed with the Ministry of Education’s assertion that allowing choice would be a breach of the Treaty.

“A Ministry official told the Select Committee that if the legislation passed ‘schools would have an open-ended choice, rather than a guided choice’. Guided choice seems to be departmental speak for ‘no choice’, it is te reo or nothing.

“This is nonsense. Te reo was always going to be included in the priority list of languages, and the legislation doesn’t remove the existing requirement for school boards to make teaching available in tikanga Māori and te reo Māori.

“But not all kids will want to study te reo in depth.

“National doesn’t believe in forcing kids to learn one specific language. Motivation to learn a language is essential, so giving children options to make that choice themselves is a much better way to do it.

“It was clear in the submissions to the legislation that there is a keen interest in a wide variety of languages in this country. Implementing this law would’ve been a significant first step towards creating smarter, more culturally aware Kiwis.”

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