A Shorten Labor Government will get more Australians studying Asian languages to ensure the next generation is prepared for the jobs and economic opportunities of the Asian century.
Asia is home to the fastest-growing middle class on earth, and Australia is right on its doorstep.
Almost nine in 10 of the next billion middle class consumers will be Asian. For Australian business to realise the most economic benefit, we must urgently improve on Asian languages and literacy.
In recent years, the proportion of school students choosing to study Asian languages in Year 12 has stagnated, and in some cases, gone backwards.
Our plan will:
1. Boost the supply of Asian language teachers.
Up to 100 scholarships a year for Australians who are Asian language native speakers and for top performers in priority Asian languages in Year 12, to go on to study a teaching qualification.
2. Establish a new nationwide FutureAsia – Asia Capable Schools program.
Intensive training for 5,000 principals and senior teachers to drive sustained whole-of-school change by supporting them to make the necessary updates to their curriculum and teacher capability. The training will cover the skills students will need for the Australian jobs created in the Asian Century, as well as Asian languages, histories, geographies, arts, literature, and how these translate to the school curriculum. Labor would also seek matching funding from the States so this program can be rolled out for all 10,000 Australian principals over a five year period.
3. Improve Asian languages curriculum materials from pre-school to Year 12.
This would build on the existing Early Language Literacy App and Language Learning Space. Hindi will be added as a first priority - Indonesian, Mandarin, and Japanese are already covered by the App.
4. Set ambitious targets and goals for Asian languages.
Working with the States and Territories through COAG, and with non-government schools.
5. Collect better data about the take-up of Asian languages in Australia so we can more easily track the progress and take-up of Asian languages.
Since 2011, no detailed, Australia-wide data on Asian language study in schools has been collected.
6. Establish an Advisory Council on Asia Capabilities.
Headed up by experts from academia, the education sector, business, and not-for-profits to drive research and generate new ideas to boost teaching and learning about Asia across all levels of Australia’s education system.
7. Undertake a whole-of-government audit of Federal and State government policies and programs on Asian literacy and languages education.
To stop costly duplication and to ensure government money is well targeted at achieving improved Asia capability.
8. Convene regular meetings of Indo-Pacific Education Ministers.
To further strengthen educational links between Australia and our Asian neighbours. The meetings will discuss collaborative education initiatives, scholarships, and strengthening ties across school and post-secondary education systems.
We will pay for these committments by making multinationals pay their fair share and closing tax loopholes used by the top end of town.