Bilingual Education In Australia Education Essay

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Australia the sixth largest country in the world, has an estimated population of almost 23 million in the 2012 census Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012. Ninety per cent of the population are of European descent and mainly British. The remaining ten per cent include the indigenous aboriginal peoples, who constitute 1.5 per cent and immigrants from other parts of the world, notably Asia. The current Australia population, according to the 2012 census, were born in the following areas: United Kingdom, New Zealand, China, India, Italy, Vietnam, and Philippines.

The official language of Australia is English, which is spoken by 82.6 per cent of the population as their first language. Almost all of the remaining population speak a variety of different immigrant languages, reflecting the enormous migration to Australia from European countries, especially after the second World War (''Australian Bureau of Statistics'', 2006 ). In the 2012 census, 23.2 per cent of the population of Australians claimed to use a language other than English at home. The most widely used European immigrant languages are Italian, German, Greek, Macedonian, Maltese, Polish and Spanish. Among the Asian Immigrant people: Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino form the largest language groups (''Australian Bureau of Statistics'', 2012).

According to Baker and Prys Jones (1998), are in total about 100 communities in daily use in Australia. However, the tendency among minority language groups in Australia is in language shift to English to occur in or two generations. Official government policy's until the 1970s was to help immigrants to learn English as quickly as possible, by means of an extensive language as a second language teaching programs for children and adults. There was no provision for minority language maintenance. Since the 1970s the government has moved from an assimilationist policy. That shows some concerns for community language. Currently, there is widespread additional provision for community languages at primary and secondary level, and some successful bilingual programs have been run. However, the level varies between regions. Bilingual programs found mostly in inner-city areas where the minority of immigrants have settled. The original inhabitants, the Australian Aboriginals, constitute 1.5 per cent of the population (''Australian Bureau of Statistics'', 2012).

Since the Europeans colonized Australia in the 18th century, the Aboriginal language have been decline and many have become extinct. It is estimated that there were over 260 Aboriginals languages spoken, comprising between 500 and 600 dialects varieties. None of the 150 of the Aboriginal languages still living is spoken by more than three thousand speakers and many have very few speakers, numbering between a few hundred and half a dozen. One of the largest aboriginal languages is Kala Lagaw Ya which has three thousand speakers in the Queensland area of Australia. Most Aboriginals are bilingual in their mother tong and English. Bilingual education in Aboriginal languages, mainly for aboriginals communities is increasing especially in the Northern territories.

In this paper is the focus on bilingual education in Australia. A definition of Bilingual education which used in this paper is a form of education in which information is presented to the students in two (or more) languages (Baker & Prys Jones, 1998). By means of the literature review, we can conclude that Australia is the supreme country for bilingual education.

Literature review

Linguistic demography

Australia is one of the most complex linguistic demography's in the world. The nation became bilingual capable through the trend of immigration, in the mid-1970s. This changed the language demography in Australia enormously. The intimacy networks of child-raising within families and the communities were the two sources of a second language effort. Australia relies on the language maintenance activities of the immigrant communities, which are one of the three groups in Australia that made bilingualism capable. Secondly are the indigenous communities, which must be able to pass on their language skill through the new generations. The last and largest group is the recently arrived immigrants and communities of longer standing, and they successfully managed to transfer their language to later generations. These three groups were the foundation of second language capability in the population (Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009) .

Now a day's Australia's linguistic demography can be divided in two categories: community heritage and foreign languages which are also divided in two subcategories: indigenous and immigrant versus Asian and European which is presented in Table 1 (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007). The census of 2001 showed that there were 206 languages other than English (LOTEs) with 142 ''community languages'' and the rest indigenous languages.

Table 1: Australia's linguistic demography





Principally Chinese, Indonesian, Korean and Japan



Principally French, German and Italian, but also Russian and Spanish

Adapted from'' Maintaining Minority Languages in Transnational Contexts''. By Pauwels, A., Winter, J., & Lo Bianco, J., 2007, Palgrave studies in minority languages and communities. Retrieved from

In this same year 16 per cent of the population used a LOTE at home. Italian was the most widely used community languages in Australia with more than 350.000 users. Greek, Cantonese and Arabic followed with more than 200.000 users which is showed in Table 2 ('' Australian Bureau of Statistics'', 2001). Mandarin language increased lots in the home use, with 51.3 per cent. If only one parent was born abroad Australia, the language rate increased for all the groups. The language maintenance of some ethno linguistics groups in the analyses of the 1996 census which is presented in Table 2 (''Australian Bureau of Statistics'', 2001) continued to be strong by the second generation. The use of language other than English is underestimated by census figures. When young people move out of the parents' home, they often speak the English language and use their community language in the home of their parents, or by other older people and in the community (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007).

Table : Top 20 language

Adapted from Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2001. Australian Historical Population Statistics. Retrieved from

Multicultural and multilingual policies

A consequence of the migration process made Australia a multicultural and multilingual society. In the mid-1970 Australia made quite a progressive change in the multicultural and multilingual policy. It started with the election in 1972 were the first Labor party entered the government in 25 years. They made progressive changes in the immigration and multicultural policy. The commonwealth country released its strong ties to the British heritage of English monolingualism and assimilation of new migrants. The self-image of Australia changed to multiculturalism and multilingualism. However, with the involvement in the Vietnam war mid-1970, diversity was still a problem. To overcome this problem the government introduced a tuition in English as Second Languages (ESL) and culture maintenance, rather than assimilation. In this same period the Australian identity gained with Australian English as an function. British English was no longer the standard and further other languages and traditional foreign languages were perspective higher profiled (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007).

Community activists in migrant and indigenous communities wanted to promote linguistic diversity and language learning which had the agreement of language professionals. Therefore, the Committee of teaching migrant languages in schools proposed many innovated ideas. In 1982 a committee was established to look into the needs of comprehensive language policy. This committee formulated the four basics of the Australian language policy: The National Policy of Languages (NPL).

Language policy

The National Policy of Languages was the first national language policy . The policy was fully funded and produced the first programs of deafness and sign languages, indigenous languages, community and Asian languages, cross-cultural and intercultural training in professions, multilingual resources in public libraries, media support for adult literacy and English as a second language.(Pauwels, Winter, & Lo Bianco, 2007).

The main goals of The National Policy of Language are the following:

English is available for everyone

Maximum support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

A language other than English is available for everyone

Fair and widespread language services

This policy distinguishes from three categories of language: English, indigenous languages and LOTEs. Interesting is that at least two of these categories are available for everyone. Within LOTE, no distinction is made between community language and foreign languages which is in West-Europe out of order. Languages as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Modern Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish were the first nine languages that could be taught wider. The beauty of the LOTE is that these languages can be taught by anyone. Regardless of these languages are a first, second or foreign language (Extra, 2000).

In 1991, an new policy came out: Australia's Language: The Australian Language and Literacy Policy (ALLP) (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007). This was published by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. The policy was stricter than the NPL. The ALLP wanted to financial incentive to stimulate language learning. Facilities in languages other than English were as much important to individuals and society (Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009). With this design the four goals adjust to:

All Australians should develop and maintain effective literacy in English to enable them to participate in Australian society.

The learning of languages other than English must be substantially expanded and improved.

Those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages which are still transmitted should be maintained and developed, and those that are not should be recorded where appropriate.

Language services provided by interpreters and translators, the print and electronic media and libraries should be expanded and improved.

With this new policy each state has his own languages-in-education policy. Australia has six states en two territories each with a separate education, what can lead to extensive language programs. In all states have students take a LOTE in their secondary education. Into the primary schools the children must get an introduction of LOTEs. The school system received a fund to successfully complete the 12 years that the students have to complete in a priority language. 14 languages were earmarked: Arabic, Australian Aboriginal languages (taken as a group), Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Greek, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese (Wright, Kelly-Holmes & Clyne, 1998). A school system program like CLT, Communicative Language Teaching. In this program, language is learned by the idea that there is more than imitation. Learners have to generate and manage to create their own meanings. It is also the national coordinating agency for part-time schools of language and culture ('ethnic schools'). In 2006 the taught languages increased immensely which is exposed in Table 3 (''Community Languages Australia'', 2008).

Table : Languages taught in public, independent and complementary provider schools across Australia, 2006

Adynyamathanha, Albanian, Alywarre, Amharic, Anmatyerre, Arabana, Arabic, Armenian, Arrernte, Assyrian, Auslan, Bangla, Barhamah, Bari, Bengali, Bosnian, Braille, Bulgarian, Burrara, Butchulla, Central Arrente, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin), Classical Greek, Classical Hebrew, Colombian, Croatian, Czech, Dalabon, Danish, Dari, Datiwuy, Dinka, Djabugay, Djambarrpuyngu, Djirrbal, Dutch, Farsi, Fijian, Filipino/ Tagalog, Finnish, French, Galpu, Ganalbingu, German, Golumala, Greek, Gujarati, Gumatj, Gungarri, Gupapuyngu, Guuge Yalanji, Guugu Yimithirr, Harari, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indigenous (other), Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kalaw Kawaw Ya, Kaurna, Khmer/Cambodian, Kija, Korean, Kriol, Kuku Yalanji, Kune, Kurdish, Kuuk Thaayorre, Lao, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Liya-Dhalinymirr, Liya-Gawumirr, Luritja, Macedonian, Madi, Malay, Maltese, Mandaean, Mangarrai, Maori, Meriam, Mir, Mon, Murinh-Patha, Ndjebbana, Nepalese, Ngalakan, Ngandi-Mara, Ngarrindjeri, Ngaymil, Nuer, Oromo, Persian, Pitjantjatjara, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Rembarunga, Ritharrngu, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Sanskrit, Serbian, Sinhala/Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Tatar, Telugu, Thai, Tigrinia, Tiwi, Tok Pisin, Tongan, Torres Strait Islander Languages, Turkish, Uighur, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Wanguri, Warlpiri, Warramiri, Wik Mungkan, Wubuy, Wujul Wujul, Yankunyjatjara, Yiddish, Yolnu Matha, Yoruba, Yugambeh Djirrbal

Note. Language in italics are Indigenous.

Adapted from Community Languages Australia, 2008. Unpublished data.

Furthermore, there are also four special language schools that runs by the government. (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007). These schools offer out-of-school hours, face to-face and distance mode teaching for students through the Saturday School of Community Languages. The four languages school are: Darwin Language Centre, Saturday School of Community Languages (SCL), Saturday School of Languages in South Australia and Victorian School of Languages (SL).

The VSL is the largest institution of the four and was established in 1936, offering 46 languages to nearly 15.00 students between year 1 and 12 in 27 metropolitans and 12 regional and rural locations. Overall, the four schools taught 52 languages. In table 4 you can find the specific languages related to the special language schools (Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009).

Table : Languages available through government-run schools, 2008

Darwin Language Centre, NT: 8 languages, enrolments not available

Languages available: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish

Saturday School of Community Languages (SCL), NSW: 26 languages, total of more than 4500 students

Languages available: Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Chinese (Mandarin), Croatian, Dutch, Filipino/Tagalog, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Maltese, Persian (Farsi and Dari), Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese

School of Languages, SA: 24 languages, total of 528 enrolments

Languages available: Adnyamathanha, Arabana, Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese (Mandarin), Croatian, Dinka, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kaurna, Khmer, Korean, Persian (Farsi and Dari), Pitjantjatjara, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese

Victorian School of Languages (SL), VIC: 46 languages, total of 14,432 enrolments

Languages available: Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Auslan, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin), Croatian, Dinka, Dutch, Filipino/Tagalog, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Karen, Khmer, Korean, Latin, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Maltese, Persian (Dari and Farsi), Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Syriac, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish and Vietnamese

Adapted from Second languages and Australian schooling. by Lo Bianco, J., Slaughter, Y., 2009, Australian Education Review, 54. Retrieved from


Since the second World War is Australia a country with much immigration. Therefore, there became a progressive change in multicultural and multilingual approach in the beginning of 1970. According to Pauwels et al. (2007), the linguistic demography of Australia is since then divided in community heritage and foreign languages. Since the switch of the immigration and multicultural policy, Australia released its strong ties to the British heritage of English monolingualism and assimilation of new immigrants. Later on, the Committee of the teaching of migrant languages in schools proposed many innovated ideas (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007).

Bilingual education in Australia starts with the child raising within families and the communities. They rely on the second language effort by the activities of the immigrant communities, indigenous communities and the recently arrived immigrants (Lo Bianco & Slaughter, 2009) . Since the importance of The National Policy of Language, there were three categories of languages which were available for everyone. Languages as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Modern Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish were the first nine languages that could be taught broader. Another Policy which stimulate the bilingual programs lots were the ALLP. The facilities in different languages other than English helped the education for the individuals and the society. In all states have the children the possibility to get an introduction of LOTE from the primary school and in their secondary education they have to take a LOTE. By now, the school system received a fund to successfully complete the 12 years that the students have to complete in a priority language. (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007). In conclusion, the bilingual school system of Australia has been greatly approved with the focus on expansion over the last years and that is why we think that Australia is the supreme country for bilingual education.


Australia is one of the best countries which has an positive attitude towards multilingualism. Not only for the multilingualism aspect, however also for the maintenance of culture for every inhabitant in the county. Furthermore, stimulates the government The National Policy Language even more and acknowledge other languages to be studied by all, regardless where you from, what your ethical background is and what your first language is.

By means of, that every state has his own policy for language education there are introduced various schools systems (Pauwels, Winter & Lo Bianco, 2007). The ability to learn a second language outside the mainstream school system, can develop a gap in the language capability of the students. The primary, secondary schools, the special schools and the CLT should make an curriculum to develop the language system in a well balanced program. A possibility could be that the Government facilitate this language system and bringing these groups together.

In addition, in the primary schools are the children taught with LOTE in different ages. It can be noted that it is better to start this at a very young age. In this case, all the students are aware of bilingualism and will later on benefit of these abilities and adapt better in secondary schools when learning other languages. To conclude, with an positive attitude and policy for the diversity in their country they could really learn Western Europe and acknowledge the greater good in the immigration that comes along.