Question - LANGUAGE EDUCATION


One of the commitments this government has taken to the people of South Australia is that we would like to reinvigorate the study of languages in South Australia. This is very important and that is why, in August of last year, the Liberal Party released a set of policies designed to do just that. Unfortunately, in 2002, I am advised that about 12 per cent of South Australian students undertook a language as part of their year 12 studies and, by the time that the figures had come around at the end of last year, that had reduced to less than 5 per cent.

This isn't just a problem in South Australia that not enough people are learning languages, other than English as a second language. It is a challenge across the English-speaking world and across Australia. But the decline in language studies in South Australia has been profound and significant and worse than in many other jurisdictions and that is why we believe it is important to turn it around.

There are a number of reasons why that was important. We know there are opportunities in people's careers, whether through tourism, hospitality, business, or a range of other things, where learning a second language is valuable, and indeed the intercultural understanding and benefits for one's own understanding of English literacy are significant.

I know that the shadow minister agrees with me on this, and that was why we were pleased in October that the then government followed our lead in announcing a set of measures to improve language education in South Australia. I commended the minister at the time, as I do again, for undertaking that initiative. It is unfortunate, of course, that it took the shadow minister to achieve the role as education minister for the Labor Party to become interested in this. For a number of years prior they had not been so, but I commend the shadow minister for coming on board with what we proposed.

I want to talk about one of these initiatives. There were a number, of course, that I talked about. We will deliver on all of them and I look forward to answering questions like this as we deliver on others, but one of them in particular that I want to talk about today is the Languages Alive! initiative. This was actually something that was come up with by the School of Languages, an excellent school led by Lia Tedesco, a fine educator who is well regarded across South Australia. They had an idea to invest some of their money in a program called Languages Alive!, a school holiday program, but it was only able to be offered a couple of times.

We had good feedback from it last year. In particular, I note the support that the governing council of the School of Languages had for it and the feedback they were able to provide for us. That is why the Liberal Party committed from opposition to a substantial expansion of the Languages Alive! holiday program. It is very important that we encourage more young people to get excited about learning languages. The earlier they start, the earlier children are likely to pick it up and become fluent.

During the July school holidays, the School of Languages ran the program over two days for reception to year 7 students with a wide range of languages, and over 140 students attended. They engaged in four workshops. They could choose between French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Korean. The program also exposed students to a range of cultural activities. The opportunity was there, of course, for students whose own schools don't offer these languages to continue the study of that language through the School of Languages, so it's a particularly important feeder to developing this program that leads to more young people undertaking a language at year 12.

We are continuing the program in the April, July and October holidays. In the October holidays, I am looking forward to personally visiting and participating in the program. I hope I will have other reasons to participate in the years ahead in this excellent initiative, as the Marshall Liberal government continues to deliver on our promises.