|The ATESOL ACT fully supports the initiative of developing a comprehensive languages policy for the ACT. The ACT government can truly be applauded for developing such a first of its kind comprehensive Languages Policy.It is significant that the ACT Languages Policy aims to cover ALL languages, INCLUDING English. Thus, the section on ‘Economic Life’ opens up with acknowledgement that ‘employment and participation in the economic life of the ACT requires ability in the English language’.However, the Policy does not make explicit reference to the government’s commitment to provision of teaching support for learners of English as an additional language. The only commitment the ACT government makes in this section is as follows:|
‘The ACT government will pursue opportunities for promotion and provision of English language education to students and teachers from other countries’.The ATESOL ACT therefore is calling on the ACT government to commit to provision of ESL teaching that would allow our residents to develop English language skills adequate for effective participation in social life, workforce and further education. We believe that the Languages Policy needs explicit statements about the government’s commitment to systematic ESL teaching provision to people who are learning English as an additional language. Thus, children and adolescents need to be guaranteed access to Introductory English Centres and systematic ESL support in school, to ensure their ability to engage with the mainstream curriculum and facilitate further study and employment.We note that the ACT Multicultural Strategy 2010-2013 states:In addressing the principles of access and equity, the ACT Government also recognises that it is important for Canberrans who do not speak English well or at all to have opportunities to learn English.Specifically, the following actions are planned:
Continue to operate the Introductory English Centres in ACT Public Schools.
Continue to support the teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL) in ACT Public Schools.
It would be beneficial and appropriate to include reference to the Multicultural Strategy 2010-2013 and its commitments in the ACT Languages Policy.
In relation to adult learners of ESL, adequate ESL teaching provision needs to be guaranteed in order to facilitate their access to the legal system and various government services as well as education and employment.
We hope that the new ACT Languages Policy can incorporate our suggestions.
Marina Houston (Aidman), MEd, PhD (UniMelb)
President, ATESOL ACT
28th February 2011