A tale of two cities
What the dickens happened to languages in NSW?
The current discourse in Australian languages education is that if children study languages in the early years, then languages uptake in secondary schools will increase. There has been little coherent data collection and analysis, however, to support or challenge this discourse. This article draws on findings from an ARC Linkage study in NSW involving cross-sectoral languages study data (2007 to 2014), school case studies and teacher surveys to explore links between primary school provision, uptake and continuation to Year 12. The study focused on 348 schools in two demographic areas – inner city Sydney and Wollongong. The three key findings were that uptake in upper secondary school is primarily a factor of scaling for tertiary entry; that socioeconomic status (SES) is a key factor in K-10 languages provision and uptake and that community languages have been marginalised from day schools. The paper argues that language programs and policy need to be based not on common beliefs but on consistent data collection. It also argues that two key issues need to be addressed to reverse the decline in language study: a review of the tertiary scaling of languages and government strategies which work from issues of equity of access for students in lower-SES schools.
Keywords: languages education, university entry, language policy, equity
Published online: 02 December 2016
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