Languages in Victorian schools

The Baillieu government is threatening to deviate from the new national curriculum over its downplaying of language teaching.

While the national curriculum aims to place a greater emphasis on languages, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has allocated only 300 to 400 hours to language teaching between Prep and Year 6.

This is about half the number of hours recommended by the Victorian Education Department, which endorses 700 hours of language study before Year 7 (around 150 minutes of language study per week in primary school).

State Education Minister Martin Dixon said that, in light of this information said the government would not renounce its power over language education with the implementation of the new national curriculum.

''The Commonwealth government must wake up and stop pushing Victoria towards the lowest common denominator in education,'' Mr Dixon said.

''We will continue to demand Victoria's high standards form a minimum baseline for national reform.''

ACARA is currently finalising the language curriculum before it moves on to the writing stage in August.

The language curriculum is being developed alongside arts and geography. Together, these subjects make up phase two of the national curriculum, and are due to be rolled out in classrooms in 2013. This follows the first phase of the curriculum English, mathematics, science and history subjects which began implementation in 2011.

According to ACARA, these are merely indicative figures that were designed to act as a guide for the writers of the curriculum. They have reported that no decision has yet been made over how many hours will be spent learning languages in the classroom.


  • ACARA's indicative allocation of hours is as follows: 300 to 400 hours of learning from Prep to Year 6; 130 to 160 hours of learning in Years 7 and 8; a further 130 to 160 hours of learning in Years 9 and 10; and a further 200 to 240 hours of learning in Years 11 and 12.
  • The 11 languages included in the national curriculum are Chinese, Italian, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Modern Greek and Vietnamese. This choice takes into consideration languages of national priority (Asian languages); the most common languages currently taught in Australian schools (French, German, Indonesian and Japanese); the most commonly spoken foreign languages at home in Australia (Arabic, Greek and Vietnamese); and languages of ˜global importance' (Spanish and Arabic).
  • The language curriculum has also developed an Australian Languages Framework, which aims to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages to national attention, strengthen pride in identity and culture, help to fulfil the government's aim to close the gap in Indigenous education and support Indigenous language programs in schools.
  • Pathways for second language learners, home user learners and first language learners will be developed for groups of students learning each particular language.
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