Written by Bernard Lane for The Australian, July 9, 2012:
“Improving awareness and understanding of other nations, languages and peoples beyond our shores is a foundation stone to Australia’s ability to effectively participate in our increasingly globalised and borderless world,” the Australian Council for Private Education and Training says.
The council puts its case in favour of “compulsory, for-credit” language study in a submission to the International Education Advisory Council chaired by businessman Michael Chaney.
Mr Chaney’s council is helping the government devise a new strategy for international education.
In January, the accounting body CPA Australia argued that Asian languages should be compulsory because many school students would go on to work in Asia.
“If they are going to have global opportunities, then they need a few things in their kitbag and one of those is a capacity to speak another language in the Asian sector where most of them will be doing business,” said CPA chief executive Alex Malley.
“It does come down to respect of cultures and respect of communication abilities.”
In its submission ACPET says: “Exposing our youth to a deeper understanding of their future friends, clients, teachers, colleagues and employers from a young age would go a long way towards fixing many of the issues we face today, including the difficulty of meeting our offshore partners expectations of reciprocal staff and student mobility.
“Ultimately, it would also enable business and government decisions to be made with a greater understanding of, and ability to capitalise on, our place in the region and globally.”
Talk of a dramatic shift to compulsory language learning is seen as misconceived by language policy experts, who stress the need for a gradual expansion of high quality programs and teacher training.