Greek language education in Victoria in crisis

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Indeed, we are in crisis. The title of the first page in Neos Cosmos two weeks, it was “teacher shortage reaching crisis point”.

Every principal I’ve heard of is struggling to fill positions. Coburg West Elementary School, one of five remaining public elementary schools in the state that still offers Greek, is struggling to fill a part-time Modern Greek teaching position for more than 12 months. The Geelong community is asking for a Greek story hour in its network of public libraries, but the project has stalled for lack of a facilitator.

The Greek school reported that it has always struggled to fill vacancies for Greek teachers. My seven year old daughter goes to Greek school and the teacher will soon be on maternity leave and it was not easy to fill this position.

Challenges

With less than 100 days to go until the State of Victoria election, as a community we must strike while the iron is hot. I think we should also work with other ethnic communities to ask the government to help us fill this gap.

Countryside

Of the 1,112 kindergartens in Victoria who chose the ELLA federal language program, only 19 chose Modern Greek. The Alpha childcare center run by PRONIA, the Greek welfare agency, offers Japanese and a strong Greek curriculum bringing the number to 20.

Greek Story Hours in our public library systems are offered by six councils, Oakleigh, Doncaster, Yarra, Whittlesea, the town of Boroondara and Darebin. They range from weekly school terms to once a month. The Cobourg Greek Story Time Library is in hibernation. Parent groups in Geelong and the city of Port Philip are organizing to facilitate the programs in the councils.

There are now only 10 schools left in the Victorian state school system that offer Greek, five in primary and five in secondary. Lalor Primary School has the only bilingual program where 30-50% of learning is done in Greek.

The Victorian School of Languages ​​(VSL) offers Greek at six locations, Thornbury, South Oakleigh, Doncaster, Glen Waverly, Noble Park, Keilor Downs Secondary College and via distance learning. The agreement between VSL and the Ministry of Education does not allow the poaching of students between services. Thus, if a student’s local public school offers Greek, VSL cannot enroll them.

There are about 15 additional after-school networks, or Community Language Schools (CLS) that offer Greek to students outside school hours, such as evenings or weekends.

Funding

Subsidies for community language sector fees are approximately $245 per student enrolled. In November 2020, a one-time grant of $10 million was awarded to 365 language schools over a four-year period and capped at $60,000 per school.

On the other hand, the EBA ratified in mid-July 2022 puts the minimum salary for a VIT-registered teacher in a Victorian public school at $75,000 before retirement. Most teacher salaries range between $75,000 and $109,000 in annual earnings rate.

Language programs

Learning general languages ​​other than English according to the Department for Education and Training (DET) should be taught an additional 150 minutes per week. However, most are lucky to have a period, which is half the amount recommended by the DET.

Content language and integrated learning, or CLIL, is a heavyweight way of saying that content should be taught in the additional language. Learning may include art or history in Greek. Funding for schools is based on a base amount, plus per pupil enrolled, multiplied by the percentage of teaching time in the additional language. So more time in the extra language translates into more funding.

Italian vs Greek Community

As of July 2020, the following enrollment figures were reported for Greek and Italian language programs in the state.

  • Italian (DET and VSL): 82,141 students. Community language schools: 336
  • Greek (DET and VSL): 2,541 pupils. Community language schools: 545

The Italian community has retained more students, which can be attributed to maintaining a vibrant and vibrant Italian curriculum within the public school system. Having every student in the class participate in the language program has helped maintain very high enrollment figures. The fact that there are more Catholic primary and secondary schools may also be a contributing factor.

As we head into a national election, it was good to see the Association of Modern Greek Teachers put forward the following demands.

  • support research that follows the destination of students enrolled in Modern Greek
  • set up CLIL training to be provided by MGTAV to its members
  • provide 10 scholarships per year for tertiary studies of Modern Greek
  • support schools that offer Greek and increase the contact time they make available to meet the 150 minutes per week recommended by DEET
  • help the Pharos by funding a part-time salary for two years to help us fully implement all the recommendations

A multi-ethnic community campaign should ask:

  • an increase in the number of schools offering bilingual programs
  • government commitment to help a minimum number of schools transition to CLIL and then to bilingual programs
  • strengthening our Victorian language policy
  • funding to support “ethnic storytimes” in public libraries and the expansion of the ELLA program in kindergartens

These should operate in a complementary way and have ‘clustered’ language areas for progressive pathways to language learning, such as the cluster of French programs in the Camberwell/Hawthorn area – 2 primary schools and 2 secondary schools which offer French bilingual programs.

  • government implementation goals and outcomes, leading bodies, councils and panels that require them to be representative of our multicultural makeup. (This includes Indigenous Peoples and First Nations). State work has achieved gender parity, now we are aiming for racial parity.
  • language learning paths and databases of these same organizations of databases of speakers of ethnic languages ​​(including indigenous languages).
  • and while this is a federal matter – and this is a state election – SBS’s commitment to and implementation of its “ethical language content delivery”).

Why should the government invest in languages? Well, the evidence is clear.

It has been proven that people who speak more than one language do better academically, are better problem solvers and become global citizens. There is some evidence that multilingual people can avoid dementia.

So let’s work to make Greek language learning more impactful in more schools. It’s winning everywhere.

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