Academic journal article Babel

Editorial

Academic journal article Babel

Editorial

Article excerpt

Since my last editorial, we have seen the release of Ken Henry's much anticipated White Paper, Australia in the Asian Century. The White Paper addresses the need for Australians to engage more deeply with our Asian neighbours, across all spheres of life and activity. The message that Australians need to be educated in the languages and cultures of Asia, as well as English, was front and centre in the paper. The paper noted that every Australian student needed significant exposure to studies of Asia across the curriculum, to have continuous access to learning an Asian language throughout their years of schooling, and to have the opportunity to learn an Asian language as part of every university program. Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese were nominated as 'priority' languages, Hindi being the new kid on the block. As Hindi is currently taught in only a few schools in Australia, this addition will require concerted efforts--and funds--to enable programs to be developed and for teachers to be educated to teach it. Significant increases in teacher numbers will also be needed for the other priority languages, if the aim for every child to have continuous access to quality programs is to be realised. The slippage of Korean from the priority list is a concern, as recent gains in improved program quality, numbers and available teachers offer significant benefits to Australian learners and Australia's future that should not be lost.

While Australia does need to engage with Asia and Asian languages to the degree outlined in the White Paper, what must also not be forgotten is the continuing need for engagement with languages of other regions and cultures, alternative markets and centres of human endeavour and decisionmaking; as well as with the languages with which the diverse population of Australia identifies, including first (mother tongue) languages, heritage and home languages, at-risk and thriving Indigenous languages, and the languages of Europe, the Americas and Africa. …

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