The Asian century beckons

Writing in The Canberra Times (25 April, 2012) federal parliamentarians Michael Leigh and Lisa Singh make a strong, five-point case for changes in attitude and policy in Australia to meet the challenges of “the Asian century.” Among other things, they argue for a command of Asian languages that goes beyond the level of the backpacker to fit with the demands of the boardroom.

Quote: “Increasing Australia’s skill base in Asian languages must be a strategic priority. Better language capacity is crucial to trade negotiations and grasping business opportunities. Just as compelling are the social and cultural benefits of enabling people to communicate with people from other backgrounds. A strong command of language allows listeners to far better understand differences in culture; to understand not just what is said, but why. If we want Australia to have a place at the table in the Asian Century – to even understand the opportunities available – we will need to adjust our Asian language competence from a level suitable for backpackers to one that fits the boardroom.”

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Our near northern neighbours are vigorously embracing multiple-language schooling

Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald (23 April, 2012) William McKeith emphasises the point that “while we in Australia sit around arguing about whether our schools should have a more connected approach to Asian languages, our near northern neighbours are vigorously embracing multiple-language schooling.” He argues, among other things, that “just as is happening in Asia, Australian education policymakers need to express a strong commitment to the study of other languages in primary and secondary levels, with an hours allocation approaching that of maths and English.”

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