The Australian Labor Party has made early childhood language education a key part of its platform this election cycle, proposing an investment of $15 million AUD ($10.7 million USD) in community language schools across the nation.
Under the party’s proposal, more than 700 schools throughout the country would receive up to $30,000 AUD ($21,300 USD) to go toward expanding their programs’ offerings. Currently most community language schools in the country enroll elementary school–aged children, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Proponents of the funding believe it could allow schools to enroll younger children, helping the students to make early progress in their second languages.
As has been widely documented in the field of second language acquisition, young children tend to achieve very high learning outcomes when they begin learning another language, especially when compared to adolescents and adults.
“The younger someone starts learning another language, the easier it is to pick it up,” Tanya Plibersek, a spokesperson for the Australian Labor Party, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“That’s why we’ve made sure this funding can help more community language schools open their classrooms to preschoolers.” While the Labor Party mainly emphasizes the importance of extending community language school offerings to preschoolers, once a school has received the funding, it would be able to put it toward other programs and endeavors to improve their performance. For example, Plibersek noted that the funding could also help schools to improve their distance learning practices or simply increase class sizes.
A little over 100,000 students are enrolled in community language schools throughout Australia, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In Australia, these programs—typically consisting of weekend or after-school classes that cater to the children of immigrant parents—often rely on volunteer teachers to lead classes. Proponents of the funding say that additional funding from the government could also allow the nation’s community language schools to hire staff. Andrew Warner