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Education to switch focus in 'Asian century'

Posted by: 3AW NEWS | 29 October, 2012 - 8:13 AM
Chinese writing (FFX)

The Prime Minister is backing an education overhaul which would see every Australian student given the opportunity to learn an Asian language.

The recommendation is a key plank of a government White Paper on Australia's growing role in the region.

It proposes children be taught either Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese.

Executive director of the Asia Education Foundation Kathy Kirby told Ross and John it's important that more students engage with an Asian language.

"Our engagement with Asia has been increasing exponentially over the last two decades and much greater than what it is with the rest of the world combined" she said.

The paper also wants Darwin transformed into a regional hub, similar to Singapore.


Australia is to become Asian. That is the prime minister’s plan released yesterday.

Now there’s a bit of yes and no in this and a lot of political window dressing.

Australia will never be truly Asian and nor should we be.

Our heritage is British. That is an historical fact.

It is where we started and we should accept that.

But it is all very well that we look to exploit a middle class boom in Asia.

And sell whatever we can to them to make this country richer. Fine.

But Asian languages in schools. That’s the plan.

Now this is ok in theory too. The plan is every student from Prep to Year 12 can study an Asian language

And every school will have a sister school in Asia. But here’s the catch.

The estimates are it could cost $1-billion to teach Asian languages in schools. Why? Why spend it?

And aren’t there more important priorities. I deal with many kids with university degrees who can’t count, can’t spell and think grammar is a waste of time.

And if you ask them about Australian history they’ll tell you that John Howard discovered Australia.

What about teaching life skills? What about teaching kids how to manage a budget? Or resolve disputes?

What about teaching some mental  health skills.

Some ideas about maintaining good physical and mental health.

I know the schools are over worked an underfunded so should we really be putting money into teaching kids to speak Chinese for a few years.

Just so they can read the menu?



LISTEN: Executive director of the Asia Education Foundation Kathy Kirby speaks with Ross and John

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Blog comments Your Say

  • More waste from the incompetent Labor mob>.

    Steve Monday 29 October, 2012 - 3:45 PM
  • Far more important to communication with foreign people is our correct usage of the English language. Most of the people in the positions we would be dealing with have at least some knowledge of English. Their greatest problem in understanding us during conversation is due to poor/lazy pronunciation, abbreviation and grammatical errors. A much more practical and economical solution would be if there is higher quality education on the English language, directed toward communication with people for whom English is not their first language.

    David T. Monday 29 October, 2012 - 3:29 PM
  • If I remember correctly, didn't Kevin Rudd suggest that every child learn Mandarin when he was PM? There's been a few things that Kevin Rudd wanted to do and now Julia Gillard wants to introduce them. Strange, very strange

    Suzanne Monday 29 October, 2012 - 12:16 PM
  • This Government wanting to spend yet more they haven't got or raised with their tax on tax on tax!!

    Stephen Monday 29 October, 2012 - 11:06 AM
  • I think anybody under 20 should learn all of these four languages or in the future they wont be able to communicate with anybody The prime minister is right Australia will be asian

    carole Monday 29 October, 2012 - 9:31 AM
  • I agree with Neil in this matter. It is a lot of money to spend, when child obesity & diabetes is epidemic. Physical Eduation in school should be a priority alond with literacy & numeracy. As a parent I have a problem with having a sister Asian country and having to learn that language at school. What if the child wants to have a choice and learn a different language?They will miss out. I certainly dont feel informed about what asia is doing for Australia, Only what we are spending to support them on projects what does Australia get in return.In the news recently we heard how nurses graduating cannot get a job, most of these positions have been taken by Asian countries coming in on visa's.Idustries using cheap labour in Asia and we are losing jobs over here. How about looking at keeping jobs in Australia.When you have so much being lost to Asia, how can yoy feel positive about learning an asian language. Cunselling for children & families in school when issues arise. 7 trained a trained nurse in all schools, not just for attending to injured or sick kids, but she / he could be utiilised giviing education on health issues. Maybe I am uneducated about what we are getting in return. The general public needs to be convinced that this money is worth spending on Asian languages.i for one are sick and tired of our tax payers money being wasted.

    lynne Monday 29 October, 2012 - 9:18 AM

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