Teaching Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean in Primary Schools in Australia

Room 224, School of Education, School of Education Building R19
Tuesday 11 November 2014 (14:00-16:00)

For general queries relating to this event, please contact Jaspreet Kaur Takhi j.takhi@bham.ac.uk

Exploring the policy context, aims and stakeholder perceptions of implementation in four “bilingual programs” in New South Wales

Speaker: Ruth Fielding, Assistant Professor in TESOL and Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Canberra. 

Email: ruth.fielding@canberra.edu.au

Ruth FieldingSeveral languages have become a strong feature in the Australian government’s policy rhetoric since the National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools(NALSAS) initiative was launched in 1994 (see http://www1.curriculum.edu.au/nalsas/about.htm). During the last two decades the NALSAS policy morphed to become the National Asian Languages and Studies in School Program(NALSSP) with four languages – Chinese (Mandarin), Indonesian, Japanese and Korean - established as "priority languages" by the Federal Government (Asia Education Foundation, 2010; NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2011). More recently the Federal Government stated its aspirational aim for 40% of children to finish school proficient in an Asian Language by 2020 (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2012). To achieve that kind of goal, Australia’s State and Territory governments, who control the education policy in their respective States, have realised that an amount of learning of languages must begin during the primary school years.

In 2009 the New South Wales State Government announced that it would trial the teaching of the priority languages in four primary schools using what they termed a “bilingual program” (see http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/nsw-schools-to-offer-bilingual-education-20090615-c82y.html). After a selection process, four schools undertook to pilot the program for language delivery in one of each of the focus languages, with the new programs to be rolled out over six years starting from the January of 2010 (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2010; Harbon & Fielding, 2013).

Now, five years into that implementation, we have begun two out of three connected research projects exploring the language programs in these four schools. Our first research explored all stakeholder perceptions of program implementation under a “top-down mandate”. Current research is investigating the language in the classroom and the teacher pedagogies. In 2015 we will explore language learning, literacy and KLA content outcomes in the programs. In this talk I will discuss the policy context of the programs, the challenges schools have experienced in implementation, and the parent, teacher and student views of the benefits and weaknesses in the programs as they have been enacted so far.


Asia Education Foundation, (2011) National Statement on Asia Literacy in Australian Schools 2011–2012,Melboune: AEF.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2012, October). Australia in the Asian Century: White Paper. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.

Harbon, L. & Fielding, R. (2013, April). Bilingual education programs in four primary schools in New South Wales, 2009-2012: A report to continue the conversation. Sydney: Authors.

NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2010 Bilingual Schools Program, http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/secondary/languages/bilingual/schools.htm 

NSW Department of Education and Communities (2011) National Asian Languages and Studies in School Program, http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/nalssp/about.htm 

Author Biography

Dr Ruth Fielding is an Assistant Professor in TESOL and Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Canberra. She has researched in the area of bilingualism since 2006 and completed her PhD project exploring bilingual identity in young children in 2009. Her postdoctoral research has focussed on bilingual language programs in four primary schools in New South Wales, Australia in collaboration with A/Prof Lesley Harbon at the University of Sydney. Ruth’s research interests span bilingualism and multilingualism, bilingual identity, language teacher education, intercultural language teaching and learning and language and literacy measurement. Ruth’s first sole authored book stemming from her research into bilingual identity will be released in early 2015 by Springer. Ruth’s teaching experience has been in language teacher education at pre-service and Master’s level. She worked as a Lecturer at the University of Sydney for over eight years and is currently Convenor of the MA TESOL and FLT program at the University of Canberra.

All are welcome to attend this free event and registration is not required.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities