Languages for the future

As the new school term starts, thousands of students up and down the country will have packed their bags and headed off to start a new year of learning.

This is a good time of year to reflect on the value our education system provides young New Zealanders. It’s also important for us to continue to come up with proactive ideas for supporting students and their families in their educational pursuits.

On proactive ideas, one of the big ideas we have recently been talking about is from my colleague, Nikki Kaye, where she has proposed providing universal access to a second language in schools.

The benefits of speaking more than one language have enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits. Our languages proposal is about ensuring that all children in Years 1-8 have universal access and resources to learn a second language.

Nikki has put forward a new law change that would require the Education Minister to set at least 10 priority languages for schools following public consultation. It would also place a requirement on the Crown to resource the provision of these languages in schools.

Initially we expect languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi. It will then be up to school boards to consult with their communities to determine which of the priority languages will be taught at their school. Every school will be required to deliver at least one second language, but some may choose to offer more than one.

Our estimate is that the cost of the changes will be around $40 million per year to be put towards providing schools with more expert language teachers, language specialists and online resources.

Strengthening language fluency has the potential to lead to a smarter, more culturally aware nation that is better equipped to succeed domestically and internationally. While there have been some positive steps over the last decade there is still more to do. This proposal represents an important investment in our country’s future.

Our proposal also shows that, despite being on the other side of the Parliament now, National is still able to come up with innovative ideas to help New Zealanders. I look forward to more proposals like this being put forward.

Jami-Lee Ross
Member of Parliament for Botany