Sunday, January 8, 2012

English as a second language (ESL) support in ACT schools

There was heated debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly (see Hansard of 7 December 2011) over the ACT government decision to abolish one of the two ESL executive teacher positions which provide central support for teachers in government schools. This cut had been opposed by a number of bodies including the Australian Education Union, Parent and Citizens Council and Principals’ Associations.
While all political parties agreed that the need for ESL specialist assistance in ACT schools has increased, how to best meet this need and whether current funding is adequate was hotly disputed. An ACT Liberal motion to retain the ESL executive position was defeated. However, the following Greens’ amendment was accepted ­ that the government: 
a) Undertake a review of ESL services including the Language Performance Rating cut off for full and partial support funding, with a view to raising the required level of English proficiency and the professional development and Directorate support services available to teachers;
b) in conducting the review, consult with all relevant community stakeholders as well as ESL classroom teachers and their representatives; and
c) report back to the Assembly by April 2012
Details of how the review will be conducted and how stakeholders will be consulted are not yet available, but arrangements will presumably be put in place swiftly in view of the tight time frame.  
If you are a stakeholder in this area and want your voice to be heard, look out for official announcements or contact the Director General of the ACT Directorate of Education, Jim Watterston, for more information. He can be reached via 6207 5111 or at GPO Box 158, Canberra ACT 2601.  

Cuts to language programs in the ACT

Despite the growing recognition of the many social, economic and educational benefits of maintaining and developing multilingual skills in the Canberra community, 2012 will see a reduction in language programs for adults.
Certificate and Diploma programs 
As those who read the strident letters to the Canberra Times in early December will know, the CIT has cancelled its Certificate III and IV language courses in Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish from 2012.  As the disgruntled letter writers pointed out, this effectively makes it impossible for Canberrans working full-time to study another language to a reasonable level of fluency in a well structured accredited program.
Also discontinued from 2012 is the part-time Graduate Diploma in Languages at the University of Canberra, which was available in Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese.
Japanese language at the University of Canberra (UC)
On 21 December 2011, lecturers in Japanese at UC were shocked to be informed that the university’s Japanese language program was to be abolished. Following representations from a number of organisations, including the NTEU, Japan Foundation and Embassy of Japan, closure has been postponed – either until the start of Semester 2 or at the end of 2012. This leaves students already enrolled in the program and staff in limbo and discourages new enrolments. Abolition of the program also severely restricts options for the study of languages on the UC campus and could have trickle down effects on Japanese study in schools in the ACT region.
UC students of Japanese have started an online petition, which you are welcome to sign at  
If you wish to write directly to the UC Vice Chancellor about the proposed cuts, you can email him at