ACT Ethnic Schools Association Annual Dinner, 2009

Javad Mehr, President of ACT Ethnic Schools Association

Mr Javad Mehr

Mrs Mary Porter MLA Chief Minister representative
Mr Zed Seselja, ACT Opposition leader
Mrs Kate Scandrett Minister for Multicultural Affairs representative
Steve Doszpot Shadown Minister for Education & Training

Principals, teachers, ladies and gentlemen
First of all on behalf of the ACT Ethnic Schools Association I would like to welcome to the ACT Ethnic Schools Association Annual Dinner for 2009.

This is the 15th occasion on which we have held the Annual Dinner.
As always, it is a time to celebrate our achievements and reflect on how we can develop our contribution to the life of the ACT community.
The Association has 38 member schools.
Our member schools teach more than 1500 students.
Our member schools teach a total of 29 languages.

“According to the 2006 ABS Census, more than 22 per cent of the ACT population was born overseas and more than 14 per cent speak a language other than English at home,”

2008 was the International Year of Languages. During the Year, and in the lead-up to it, there was increasing recognition in Australia and elsewhere of the need for, and benefits of, language education.

In the lead-up to the election in 2007, the Group of Eight Universities, reflected the views of many when it, along with the Australian Academy of the Humanities, organised a national Languages Summit. The Summit called for the development of Australia’s language capability.
It said:

Australia needs a comprehensive, coordinated languages plan to develop this capability …. The policy should be broad-based and involve Australian Indigenous languages, Asian, Middle-Eastern and European languages.
Language education can have a substantial transformative effect on children – who develop confidence in negotiating life in a diverse global community.

The ACT Ethnic Schools Association is proud to be one of the “measures” that promotes language education.

Our 29 languages, 38 schools and 1500+ students already fill an important role in maintaining and preserving existing language skills within our communities.
One of the important initiatives of the Association is to provide opportunities for ethnic schools to strengthen the skill levels of their teachers in teaching languages. To this end we have arranged with Dr Elke Stracke from the University of Canberra to provide professional development for our teachers.

Many of our teachers teach within the ACT mainstream schools system, but not as language teachers. The business of teaching languages requires special skills and approaches, and we are very grateful to Dr Stracke for helping to improve the educational experience we provide for our children.
We are very pleased to have Dr Stracke with us tonight. Please join me in expressing our appreciation of her efforts in strengthening ACT ethnic schools.
(A round of applause for Elke.)

It would be wonderful if the languages that we teach in our schools could be recognised within the ACT mainstream schools system. Earlier this year, through the good offices of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, the ACT Ethnic Schools Association raised this very possibility with the ACT Department of Education and Training. Further, we drew to the attention of the Department one of its policies which appeared to provide a mechanism whereby recognition could be provided.

We were delighted to find that the policy does indeed provide a pathway to recognition.
Of course, the Department would need to be satisfied about matters such the qualifications of the teachers, the curriculum being studied, as well as a range of matters relating to administration, safety and so on.

We should also note that the policy provides for recognition of courses, not schools. As a consequence, schools have the option of seeking accreditation for some, but not all, of the courses they offer.

The policy provides a two-stage process to recognition. Firstly, the Department has to be satisfied as to the credentials of the course.

When the Department is satisfied, ethnic schools have to take that recognition to individual school boards and get their approval for the course to be recognised by the school.
As many of you would know, a few months ago I wrote to each school alerting it to this new process. 13 schools have indicated an interest in pursuing accreditation.
Earlier this week I and some colleagues met the Department to arrange a meeting between the Department and the schools at which the arrangements and requirements could be more fully canvassed.

We are very excited about the possibilities which these arrangements present. They have the potential to provide an avenue whereby the particular skills of the ethnic schools can be used for the direct benefit of children right across the school system.
On behalf of the Association, I would like to thank all of the teachers and administrators for your sterling efforts in educating our children.

I would also like to thank all of our special guests for making the time to share this occasion with us.

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