After being asked to present at the Victorian Community Language Schools conference I sat down and my inner voice said, “On what? What do you have to say to the wonderfully tireless workers who deliver their language to community members?”
Grapple, delve, research. Something jumped onto my lap; the Asia Education Foundation report called the Senior Secondary Languages Education Research Project.
An appreciative audience waited patiently while the technology decided to test my resolve. An audience member mentioned that it’s mainly girls who do a language at senior secondary level (Years 11 and 12). Right. Another said that it’s boys who do German at her school. Statistics and small samples.
Australia’s over 1,000 community language schools, provide language maintenance in 69 languages to in excess of 100,000 school age children.
For me, presenting at conferences is just part of the experience. Opportunities to meet people abound-like saying hello to the two ladies who independently emigrated from Zimbabwe only to find out they went to the same school. They are now the best of friends half way across the world. The lady in national dress, who wanted to tell me of her community school where Tamil is taught to students up to Year 5 and her excitement at the thought of building that to secondary years; the gentleman from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority who chatted about the difference between international education and global education.
Community Languages Schools are after hours language schools that provide mother tongue language teaching and cultural maintenance programs. They are complementary providers of languages education to mainstream schools in Australia.