Schools scrap languages, state claims students aren’t interested

Around 150 schools in Western Australia are reported to have stopped teaching languages other than English but there is dispute over the reason behind the move.

ABC News reports that there has been a 28 per cent reduction in the number of schools teaching LOTE in the past 12 months.

Sue Ellery, Labor’s education spokeswoman says that the state funding for LOTE lessons was cut last year when the Student Centred Funding Model was introduced. The central funding paid for around half of the LOTE teachers she said.

However the education minister denies the claim and says that the move is down to student choice. Peter Collier told AAP that it’s “wrong” to suggest that there have been cuts to funding and that students were choosing subjects other than languages, such as media and photography.

Both  Ellery and Collier did agree that LOTE is an important part of the curriculum and that students benefit from learning multiple languages. Mr Collier said that a program would be implemented to get primary school children interested in languages.

A similar issue arose in the UK which made foreign languages compulsory for primary schools in the 2014-15 academic year. The British Council recently published a report on the teaching of languages in primary schools and found that there are different methods for implementing the subject.

Some schools teach languages by weaving them into wider parts of the timetable including history, geography and ‘global citizenship’ lessons. Others found that teaching a language can help integration of students in schools where there are large numbers who do not speak English as their first language. All students are learning the additional language and can do so on the same level.

While the report highlights the advantages of LOTE lessons it also highlights that some schools do not give high priority to the lessons and that there is a shortage of staff with language teaching skills; something that has also been identified by the WA education minister.