Friday, June 27, 2008

Matthew Absalom - Primary school languages - our primary failing

Matthew Absalom, lecturer in Italian at the University of Melbourne, has advanced his thoughts on languages education in media articles over the last few years, most recently Languages: our primary failing by Matthew Absalom - 30/05/2008 on See also Stop minding your language April 02, 2008 in the Australian.

On 26 June Matthew Topic will present "a critique on our approach to languages education in primary school, ie any old speaker will do, and anyway all they have to teach is numbers and colours. Primary school languages - our primary failing."

We believe there is the will and the opportunity to vastly improve languages education at all levels. The AFMLTA points out in its recent communication to the Federal Minister that the Commonwealth's current plans seem to focus instead on secondary schools only. Is this giving into those "jurisdictions" whose "insufficient commitment" is identified as a cause of the failure of current endeavours? Primary schooling is in the hands of state governments some of which truly dropped the languages ball during the Howard government's xenophobic and tight-fisted tenure. Come join in democratic debate (not bureaucratic obfuscating) with Matthew Absalom to celebrate the International Year of Languages 2008.

1 comment:

oj said...

Matthew has said elsewhere that, ‘We need to build success in language learning’ and that, ‘We need to be smarter about harnessing the language resources of our children and their communities’. I refer you to the online presentation of Wednesday 11th June in this series on the Accelerative Integrated Method. Here is a specific, tried, tested and ongoing practice that is producing success in the classroom learning of French. Let’s move on and put our efforts into building this kind of success for all the languages taught in our schools. Little or no attention seems to have been paid to ‘pedagogy’ elsewhere in this discussion.
Matthew also mentioned during his presentation, and he has stated elsewhere that, ‘Our pre-schools and primary schools need to start teaching across the curriculum in languages other than English’. This idea has been proposed many times, and syllabuses have been written with an ‘embedded approach’ in mind. Unless it comes about through a ‘whole school’ approach to languages teaching, the cross curricular approach stands little chance of getting off the ground. The success stories still relate to the few, scattered immersion programmes in existence, and I would guess that all of them relate to secondary level. Is the Camberwell primary school model still the lone beacon in this regard? Again, for a snapshot of the practical, current and, I fear, widespread reality of teaching languages in schools, I refer you to this IYL Blogspot and the comment I made on June 12th following our presentation.