Education Talking Points | 28/06/2017

In today’s talking points: More Australian students should learn Mandarin; Educational travel popular amongst Chinese parents;Success to bilingual classes in Adelaide schools; Enough support in the classroom for children with autism?

More Australian Students Should Learn Mandarin

Australia still remains thoroughly “stuck in the past” when it comes to foreign language learning, according to Australian linguist Professor Warren Midgley of the University of Southern Queensland. In his latest research project Professor Midgley found that German, French and Japanese are the most widely taught languages in Australian schools. The prominence of European languages in Australian schools, despite their declining relevance for Australian students, is evidence that Australia has still not broken free from its historically European focused language programs, and that government initiatives to promote Asian language learning have been largely ineffective. Indeed, as aptly put by Midgley, making major changes to language curriculums is “like turning the Titanic”, however timely changes are needed to allow Australia to make the most of trade opportunities in neighbouring Asia.

The notorious difficulty of the Chinese language often deters students from embarking on Chinese language studies, despite the plethora of opportunities that Chinese language skills can provide. Midgley believes that Australia should make better use of its significant Chinese speaking population by involving them in Chinese language curricula, to make Chinese learning programs more interesting and effective, while simultaneously providing opportunities for Chinese speaking individuals.

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Educational Travel Popular Amongst Chinese Parents

For many summer is a time of travel, to visit new places and enjoy oneself; however not all travel is purely for pleasure. Increasingly, Chinese parents are choosing to combine family travel with education, or simply send their children to an overseas summer camp. The reasons for doing so are generally to broaden childrens’ horizons or for immersion language learning. Australia is one of the top five most visited countries by Chinese summer school students, despite the fact that Chinese summer holidays take place over the Australian winter.

This year, international study trips by New Oriental School have welcomed 7,000 students. This number is well up on previous years, a trend indicative of the Chinese international summer trip industry as a whole, which has grown 20% over the past year. Students generally take part in summer camps with student groups, while 25% of students go alone and 13% are accompanied by their families.

Needless to say, as more and more Chinese students are looking to study abroad on short term programs, educational institutions will need to expand their capacity and learn how to best cater to this growing market.

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Success to Bilngual Classes in Adelaide Schools

A public school in Australia, Plympton International College, is one of the few schools providing a bilingual program in Chinese. Not only are the kids learning how to speak Chinese, but they also have students emersing themselves in cultural practices such as daily exercise and Tai Chi. Students taking part in this initiative continue to spend equal time on other subjects such as maths and physical education. At Highgate School, 80 per cent of lessons are taught in French with two junior primary classes. Many parents see this type of schooling very highly. There are families that have their name down for five years’ time. Susan Close, the South Australia Education Minister expects such initiatives to catch on in South Australia and the rest of Australia.

Read more at: ABC

Enough Support in the Classroom for Children with Autism?

In Parliament, Senator Hanson mentioned that children with autism are getting too much focus from parents and educators. This has brought up a discussion about whether whether students with austism have the necessary education resources. Children with autism require special attention in the classroom, particularly in managing behavioural and sensory issues such as dealing with social anxiety. For this reason, parents of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are able to apply to the West Australian Education Department for individual disability funding to help them get an education. While there is money available for students of autism, it does not meet the full criteria for them. The principal of schools predominately decide how the money should be spent on student’s disability funding payments. Some of this payment goes to education assistants to help in classrooms, professional development, as well as giving teachers more time to develop a targeted education strategy for each child. WA Primary Principals’ Association claims that while there is funding in this area, it does not fulfill childrens’ requirements of receiving the full-time support of an education assistant.

Read more at: ABC