Language Programs Available at Schools in Victoria
Evie Diamandis and Vasso Zangalis met as parents of young children traveled from Melbourne city center to Oakleigh on a Monday morning to take part in Greek Story Time at the Oakleigh Library. Talking about the Greek language options available at day schools near them, they discovered a blank slate.
This is the first in a four-part series of interviews conducted by Ms. Diamandis and Ms. Zangalis, in which they explore various aspects and strengths around a successful bilingual/immersion program in the public school system of Victoria.
Their first in-depth interview is with Vic Papas, head of the language development unit at Victoria’s Department of Education and Training, who provides a list of the types of language programs available. He also walked us through processes, resources, regional language program officers, funding and more.
Currently there are:
- Standard language programs at approximately 150 minutes per week
- Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL): some learning in the other subject above 150 minutes per week
- Bilingual: 30 to 50% of learning in the other language
Question: There has been new terminology on bilingual programs, immersion programs and general provision of core language in schools. How can we begin to differentiate some of this difference?
Vic Papas: From a Victorian perspective, there are four categories of language courses: instruction based on Victorian curriculum requirements;
Then there are the CLIL programs. CLIL programs move into the realm of immersion, where content is taught in the other language to some of the children through part of the curriculum.
Then there are the schools that offer bilingual education as bilingual schools or through our binational schools. Binational schools offer the home country curriculum in that language alongside the Victorian curriculum, while our bilingual schools offer the target language to 100% of pupils for 30-50% of the curriculum.
Currently we have 12 public primary schools offering 14 bilingual programs between them including Greek with four schools offering bi-national programs. Every year, about 70 public schools offer CLIL. However, the majority of public schools offer a regular language program. In addition, the Department funds our community language schools, which provide language learning outside of school hours, such as the Greek schools run by the Greek Orthodox Church and other nonprofit community organizations.
Over the years there has been a significant transition from Greek language learning to the community language school sector away from the public school sector in Victoria.
Q: How do we ensure that schools meet the minimum requirement of 150 minutes per week?
VP: Each year, the Department identifies a minority of schools that do not meet the recommended deadlines or that do not offer a language. Then we set up, with the help of our regional language project officers who deal directly with schools, a program to help those schools get to a place where they offer a language and/or increase their allocation of time.
Often, for rural, regional and remote schools, this is related to a labor shortage issue and not a lack of will on the part of the school. So we’re looking at more inventive ways to solve these labor issues using strategies like virtual language learning.
Additionally, we try to place language assistants in hard-to-staff schools and find that some of these language assistants become teachers and then connect with that school. When it is not a teacher shortage issue and perhaps reflects that leaders do not see language learning as a priority, we offer leadership courses, courses language maintenance and others to improve understanding of the importance of languages and how best to implement language learning in the school.
Q: The other thing we see in the Greek community is that there are not enough graduates coming in and learning Greek as a language, so the ability of schools to find a qualified Greek teacher is a challenge.
VP: It is a real challenge, especially for our bilingual schools, because in these schools you are not looking at the average language teacher, but extremely competent teachers, someone who can deliver conceptual ideas in science and history and mathematics, for example, in another language. We would like more people to see the value of becoming language teachers, but they just don’t go through teacher training institutions.
The government has put in place attractive packages to incentivize people to take over teaching, especially if they are going to teach in regional areas, which can also incentivize language teachers.
Q: So what do we do to a) educate parents, and b) if parents want a bilingual program, do they realize that they could have that as an option?
VP: We can use the argument that we live in a globalized world, and the relationships that we make socially, professionally, economically are all interdependent and language can only be useful in this circumstance, but what we promote in addition as a Department, it is research that makes the connection between learning another language and improving literacy. There is ample evidence around the world showing that students learning one or more languages do better in English literacy because of the overlap in conceptual thinking required.
Q: How do school communities get this message?
VP: Whenever we could, we tried to get the schools to engage in this thinking, with our regional language project officers, having these discussions with the schools all the time.
Q: You said there was additional funding for bilingual programs, could this be an incentive for a school to choose a bilingual program?
VP: If a school applies and is accepted into what we call the “Designated Bilingual Program,” funded and coordinated by the Department, they will receive additional funding, calculated at a per student rate, tiered based on time spent in the language. target. , between 30% and 50%.
Additional funding supports planning time, professional development, release time, language teaching support staff, and program leadership. A school offering only a regular language program will not be considered for inclusion in the designated bilingual program. It’s too big a leap.
These schools need to move from ordinary language education to a CLIL immersion model and then to a bilingual model. Notwithstanding ministerial approval, a school must display this level of readiness evidenced by a strong rationale that has the full support of the local community and staff, articulate its goals for its bilingual delivery and understanding of bilingual language pedagogy, as well as that curriculum implementation documents and strategy workforce planning, with the assurance that after three years the school will achieve 50% time in the target language, compared to a minimum of 30% expected. It’s a long process with applications by invitation only.
Q: So if the school has everyone on board and a real commitment, you are happy to support this process?
VP: A real commitment goes without saying, but a school must demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of bilingual education.
Q: If schools don’t know how to get there, you are happy to support this process.
VP: Absolutely – we are always keen to talk to schools about the kind of support or advice we can offer so they can step up their language learning.
Q: There are a lot of new schools being built, they are being told that bilingual immersion is an option.
VP: Overall, our Regional Language Project (RLP) managers would have discussions with these schools, outlining the opportunities and benefits of not just teaching languages, but offering languages in an immersive context.
Q: Schools designated bilingual, what are the characteristics that distinguish them?
VP: The key characteristic is the full commitment of the school management and the local community, with a well-informed understanding of bilingual language pedagogy. Once the school gets to the point where the leadership team and the community are on the same page, you have a powerful formula for delivering a bilingual education. The other important element is the ability to find high quality mother tongue teachers.
Q: What is considered good practice?
VP: A combination of things; time on the target language and the quality of teaching provided by a qualified language teacher. I would say that any school offering less than the recommended 150 minutes of language instruction per week can compromise its delivery, I think, an immersion approach certainly reflects best practice, where language is learned in situ in and through d other program areas.
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