Australia – According to investigations, the percentage of students studying foreign languages to obtain their Higher School Certificate this year has dropped significantly. New data shows that the current number of foreign language students accounts for only a fifth of the number in the 1950s. The statistics underline the challenge taken by the newly elected government to make 40 percent of the total number of students in high school study a foreign language within the next ten years, which seems to be complicated due to the low percentages.
There are 75,000 students who are being prepared for their Higher School Certificate this year, but only 8 percent of that amount will be sitting for a foreign language examination in October. Out of that 8 percent, the majority is studying French, which has been consistently the most popular foreign language. Within the top five most popular languages, the only one which has seen an increase in the number of students is Japanese. The other four have all experienced different degrees of decline. Another example is Indonesian, which used to be considerably popular in the 1970s, but now has only 173 students. The decrease in students is of about 76 percent since then.
Faced with this situation, Tony Abbott has ensured that the government is fully committed to rectify the situation. He assured his government would raise the number of students studying foreign languages in Australia. The emphasis will be put on Asian languages, rather than the more typical European languages like French or Spanish. The aim is to have 40 percent of all high school students studying a language, just as they did in the 1960s.
A Bumpy Road
According to Christopher Pyne, Education Minister, it might be hard to reach this target. Pyne has stated that ten year olds would not be the problem, but that the government would find it harder to achieve a rise in the number of upper senior students.
Pyne added that having a monolingual, English speaking country was actually a strength, as it had enabled Australia to gain the position it currently held in the world, as well as enabling easier administration of the country.