Where Have All the Reviews Gone? A Critical Look at Responses to the 2007 Review of Teacher Education for Languages Teachers

Article excerpt

Abstract

Marly reports over the past 40 years have investigated aspects of language education in Australia. While the majority of these reports have made recommendations to improve Australia's national language capability, few, if any, seem to have been implemented effectively. In this paper we attempt to gauge the impact of a 2007 Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) review of languages teacher education (Kleinhenz, Wilkinson, Gearon, Fernandez, & Ingvarson, 2007). To do this we obtained and analysed responses from the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to which the recommendations of this review were addressed.

While jurisdictions varied in the amount of detail they provided and in the way they engaged with our request, we were able to compare responses, identify trends, and highlight examples of good practice and innovative approaches. An unexpected finding was that the status of the review recommendations was a matter of some disagreement. An emerging trend of concern was the tendency to concentrate on initiatives related only to the Asian languages being promoted by tile relatively short term National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP). This Asian language focus was not evident in the report.

We hope that our results and discussion will inspire language teachers and system administrators in the various jurisdictions, be of use to the ACER, and stimulate further discussion about this important aspect of education in Australia.

Keywords

language education, language teacher education and training, language planning, language policy

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Introduction

Language education has been a topic of debate and concern in Australia for many years. The press regularly carries articles exhorting Australia to strengthen its language capability. Lo Bianco (2009, p. 6) identifies some 67 reports, investigations, or enquiries over the past 40 years dealing with language education in Australia. One of the key impediments to improving Australia's language performance is the supply and retention of appropriately qualified teachers of languages in schools. Recognising this gap in Australia's language infrastructure, Australia's Federal, State and Territory Ministers for Education, acting through the former Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, called for a review of teacher education courses for languages teachers (MCEETYA, 2005, p. 13).

This paper focuses on the responses of Federal, State and Territory education jurisdictions to the resulting report: the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) Review of Teacher Education for Languages Teachers--Final Report (Kleinhenz et al., 2007--hereafter, the Review). We sought to collate and analyse the responses of educational jurisdictions within Australia to the recommendations of the report in order to assess where we are now in this important aspect of Australia's education system. We did not seek to pass judgment on the feasibility or direction of the recommendations. Research into this aspect would be the subject of another paper.

We intend that the paper will be useful to essentially the same audience as that at which the ACER report was aimed: language teachers and system administrators. By comparing responses across jurisdictions, we hope to encourage good practice and share innovative approaches. The study could also help frame future requests to governments for resources to support languages education in schools. In addition, ACER has advised of its interest in the study in providing an external view of the impact of a major report that addresses a serious deficiency in Australian education.

Background

The Review was commissioned by the former Australian Department of Education Science and Training (DEST) (superseded, under current Australian Administrative Orders, by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)) in July 2006 for the then Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA; now the Ministerial Council on Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEEDYA)). …