Opposition has its frustrations, but we can still do something positive.
Recently National gained support from the major political parties for Nikki Kaye’s second language learning Bill which will ensure every child in years 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language.
As a diverse country it’s important that we embrace second language learning. Speaking more than one language has enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits.
In our own neighbourhood, where so many people speak other languages, it makes sense to give everyone the opportunity at a young age, when it is easier to start.
We expect the languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, Māori, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Pasifika and sign language.
There is widespread support for the Bill, with an Asia New Zealand Foundation survey showing 80 per cent of New Zealanders think that school children should learn a language other than English. It’s been great to see a number of language specialists and leaders call on MPs to send the Bill to select committee for wider debate.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed the Labour Party will support the Bill at First Reading. This would see a final list of 10 or more priority languages resourced for teaching by schools.
The Bill will now go to select committee so the public, organisations and communities can have their say. Issues that will be worked through at committee include details around investing in workforce development to ensure we have the teachers and ensuring adequate time is given for schools to implement this. This could be phased in over a number of years.
School boards would consult with their communities to determine which of the priority languages will be taught at their school. Every school would be required to deliver at least one second language, but some may choose to offer more.
This is a very significant step for greater support for the future of second language learning and our future. I am looking forward to a national conversation about this Bill and how it can create smarter, more culturally aware New Zealanders who are better equipped to succeed in our globally connected world.