Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vic schools to teach bilingual curriculum

This is nonsense. Why should kids who already speak the international language learn another one? I greatly enjoyed my language studies but that was just a cultural recreation for me. And Asian languages are far too hard for English-speakers. The time would be much better spent reviving the teaching of English grammar -- JR

CHILDREN would be required to learn core subjects such as maths and science in a foreign language, under a state government plan to curb the "appalling" decline of languages in Victorian schools.

With government figures showing almost 60 per cent of secondary school students do not study a language - and almost a third of primary schools don't offer them - Premier Ted Baillieu has vowed to make language education compulsory for most students, starting with prep in 2015, and progressively increasing compulsory participation to year 10 by 2025.

The Sunday Age has learnt the government is also preparing to create a pilot program, in conjunction with a Victorian university, that would train dozens of primary school teachers to conduct lessons in a language other than English.

Academics and teachers have welcomed the push to boost the teaching of languages in schools, but remain sceptical about what the government can achieve.

The plan has been branded as "incredibly ambitious" given the difficulty of finding qualified language teachers, and many warn that without proper resourcing it will be yet another language policy that fails to deliver.

Over recent decades, dozens of state and federal policies have aimed to change Australia's status as a predominantly monolingual nation - but most have achieved limited success.

Six months before the 2007 federal election, for instance, Mandarin-speaking Labor leader Kevin Rudd announced a $68 million plan to revive Asian languages in schools, but four years later there has been little progress.

However, Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras told The Sunday Age there was no reason Victoria couldn't improve. He said the state had the potential to be the multilingual capital of Australia, but had dropped the ball over the past decade, and it was "appalling" so few people could speak more than one language.

"Over the last 10 years, the teaching of LOTE (languages other than English) has decreased considerably, and what should have been our core


A university determined to destroy its reputation for excellence

Choosing its academic staff on non-academic criteria: No men allowed for top teaching jobs in engineering

MELBOURNE University has won the right to bypass anti-discrimination laws so it can choose women for senior academic jobs in engineering. VCAT granted an exemption to the university to advertise two women-only research fellowships worth up to $100,000 a year each because of a "gender imbalance" in academic staff.

The university says girls need more role models at the highest levels of engineering, but critics argue gender shouldn't be an issue when choosing suitable staff.

The School of Engineering said less than one-in-five lecturers and research fellows and only 3 per cent of professors were female.

The head of mechanical engineering at Melbourne, Prof Doreen Thomas, said the exemption was needed to encourage more female PhD graduates to further their careers. "Often women don't apply for the positions. They don't think they're good enough for them," she said. "We need to have women as role models to go out to schools and say: 'Consider doing engineering'."

Former Engineers Australia state president Madeleine McManus said the profession struggled to attract women because of image problems, lack of role models and work-life balance issues.

But labour market analyst Rodney Stinson said it was ludicrous to offer women-only academic jobs when female employment in some engineering fields was as low as 4 per cent. "Why should 4 per cent have representation on what should be an elite group at university level," he said. "Within an academic framework, unless you're studying gender matters, it's ludicrous to look at gender."


Middle-class welfare tag insults the noble art of raising children

Much of the post-budget discussion has turned on whether what is fashionably termed "middle-class welfare" should be curtailed or continued. The debate has centred on the Gillard government's decision to cease indexing certain payments to families earning more than $150,000 a year. But a more appropriate question, in terms of the budget debate, is whether such a phenomenon as middle-class welfare exists.

Take a husband and wife with two children who live on the north shore or in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and earn a family income of $150,000. If they send their children to a government school, use a bulk-billing doctor and attend the local public hospital when necessary, no one would then depict them as welfare recipients.

However, if a government decides to pay benefits for bringing up children whose parents earn $150,000, this is now classified as middle-class welfare. Is it? Not really. Successive Coalition and Labor governments have decided to assist families with children. Such payments increased during the latter period of the Howard government and have been wound back somewhat under Labor.

John Howard tackled the issue directly during his address to the Menzies Research Centre in April 2006, declaring: "Those who seek to denigrate what we've done constantly refer to family tax benefits as 'middle-class welfare'. They are nothing of the kind. They are tax relief for a universal reality - that it costs money to raise children."

It may be intellectually unfashionable to say so, but there are good policy reasons to encourage families - including men and women with a total income of about $150,000 - to have children. This is for two reasons. The best way to constrain the ageing of the population is for Australians to have children. Ageing societies have their limitations - as a glance at Japan, Italy and Russia demonstrates.

Then there is the matter of what used to be called the middle class - once positioned between the upper class and the working class. Such terminology is now out of date for numerous reasons, including the fact that most Western nations also possess a group of welfare recipients, many of them young, who cannot be depicted as members of the working class. There is also the fact that what was once the working class has merged into the middle class and many of the former group, commonly known as "tradies", now run their own businesses.

Australia does not want a situation to develop where it is primarily the rich and the less well-off who have children. This was the rationale for Howard's family tax benefits scheme, along with the baby bonus (which was a form of parental leave). Such schemes are best regarded as payments - not unlike contributions made by governments covering the education and health of children.

Tony Abbott's after-budget appeal to what he terms "forgotten families" appears to be working because many now identify with this message. It's not the slogan that is causing the Gillard government problems. Robert Menzies, when out of political favour in 1942, coined the term "the forgotten people". He had in mind those Australians who were neither members of the business-based gentlemen's clubs nor trade unionists.

Menzies' "forgotten people" line had no impact in the 1943 or 1946 elections. But when Labor's Ben Chifley decided to nationalise the private banks in 1947, suddenly the line made sense. The Coalition victory in December 1949 was built on the back of bank clerks, returned servicemen and small business operators who came to believe they had been forgotten by Labor.

There is a significant difference between wealth and income. Some families on an annual income of $150,000 have existing assets or potential inheritance; others do not. Then there are those who aspire to attain a family income of $150,000 or more. Wayne Swan's budget is risky for Labor if it is depicted as an attack on middle-class welfare in a society where many people regard themselves as middle-income earners.

It is noticeable that most middle-income earners in the private sector do not sneer about middle-class welfare. This is very much the preserve of the well-educated middle-income earners in relatively secure employment in the tertiary sector. Journalists, academics, public servants and the like. Occasionally this can lead to a lack of self-awareness.

Take the Grattan Institute economist Saul Eslake. On May Day, The Sunday Age quoted him saying "there is little good done by giving people who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and their dependents money raised by higher taxes on other people". But where should the line be drawn? Eslake is perfectly capable of working in the private sector. But he is on the payroll of the Grattan Institute, which received $30 million in grants from the federal and Victorian governments.

Last week on ABC2's The Drum program, the lawyer Kara Greiner interrupted a statement by fellow panellist Julian Morrow on people becoming dependent on public funding with the telling question: "Isn't your entire income from public funding?"

There is good reason to be strict on welfare in particular and government spending in general.

It's just that payments to assist in offsetting the cost of bringing up children should not be ridiculed as welfare, for whatever class.


Asylum seekers pretending to be teenagers for faster processing

IMMIGRATION detainees are pretending to be teens to get their visa applications processed quicker and live in better conditions.

Victoria's biggest youth immigration detention centre in Broadmeadows is filled with many asylum seekers claiming to be under 18 to escape the tougher regulations for adults, an investigation has discovered.

Secret photos obtained by the Herald Sun reveal men with obvious signs of ageing, including crow's-feet, wrinkles around their eyes and receding hairlines. Experts say the men are more likely to be aged in their 20s.

Several Immigration Department sources have confirmed the con. Immigration officials lack time and resources to investigate people's ages so they deliver them to youth detention centres with "a wry smile", a whistleblower said.

"There are some massive guys, we're talking about man mountains, in the centre. Sixteen-year-olds just aren't built like that," the source said. Adult detainees bullied genuine youngsters at the facility, it was revealed.

University of Technology Sydney forensic anatomist Dr Meiya Sutisno said an initial assessment of a selection of the photographs showed men not minors. "They are not juveniles, definitely not," she said. Dr Sutisno said the men in photos she had seen were aged between 18 and their late-20s.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the age scam had become widely known among asylum seekers and the department was unable to prove people's ages.

"They (the department) have no idea how old these people are," he said. "They just guess."

Sources revealed:

MANY detainees deliberately have no documentation of their age so they can lie about how old they are.

SOME asylum seekers have privately confessed to being more than a decade older than they claimed.

INMATES at the Broadmeadows facility have boasted about escaping at night to get McDonald's.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre coordinator Pamela Curr said many didn't know their ages because it was not in their culture to celebrate birthdays. "They say what they have been told to say by people smugglers."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If in doubt segregate them. Don't allow them to come into contact with genuine children.

You have to ask that if they are hiding their age what else about their past are they hiding? How many would prove to become sleeper terrorists?

We also need to hold the do-gooders accountable for their mistakes when they vouch for criminals.

No documents = no entry. Goodbye. Go home.