Australia is getting “it.” Australia is recognizing the importance of having a multilingual society. Thus, Australia’s legislature has passed a new national language curriculum that includes Sign Language plus 14 other languages.
According to the new plan, first and second graders would be exposed to a new language for 8% of their learning experience.
Initial languages taught include Italian and Mandarin Chinese (the most popular Chinese language, the other being Cantonese). Sign language, as well as Hindi, are also under consideration.
A point of concern for me is “…apprehension about the plan” voiced by many Australian states, parents, students, and educators. The plan has no teeth, no enforcement, thus none of the plan’s languages are “mandatory.”
The reticence of states, whether they be U.S. states, or Australian states, to engage in language learning is a concern of mine. I understand that some of state concern is funding. Is this an example of an ‘unfunded mandate?’ Or, is this more of cultural blowback against a governments attempt to introduce cultures to people that are biased against these cultures?
The first issue is solvable. Unfunded mandates are horrible failures and crush good-will and good policies. The second issue is an insidious pox that seems to permeate much discussion against new educational plans.