The curriculum will cover 11 foreign languages, with Italian and Chinese the first to be developed.
Latin and other classical languages have been left out, raising concern. Language teachers say this is a major omission because a knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek underpins understanding of literature, art and the English language. The sign language Auslan has also been left out, also raising concern.
Italian and Chinese have been given first priority because the national curriculum authority says they ‘‘represent languages that cater for the greatest range of learners’’.
‘‘Chinese is a national priority, and Italian is learnt by the largest number of students in the primary years and the second-largest number of student enrolments over all.’’
Indonesian, Japanese and Korean are also deemed national priorities as part of the second stage of the language curriculum development.
Traditional European languages, including French and German and Spanish, will also be included because they are among the most commonly taught languages in Australian schools.
Any language not included in the national curriculum will continue to be taught under existing state arrangements, according to the draft paper by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
I'm not particularly surprised that Latin was ommitted. NSW is (as far is I know) the only state where Latin is 'widely' taught, and so on a national level I can understand why it wouldn't figure highly. The curriculum also seems to me to be driven by utility - what languages are going to most useful - and it's hard (though not impossible) to mount an argument that Latin is more 'useful' than (say) Mandarin with eight hundred million speakers or Spanish with three hundred million. The first article's claim that "a knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek underpins understanding of literature, art and the English language" is true, but to a lot of people these days (including I suspect the people who wrote the syllabus) that's irrelevent if it can't help you close a business deal.
In my mind learning any language has benefits beyond simply their utility as a communication system. Learning a language helps you to see the world from a different perspective, teaches you transferable skills of analysis and discipline. Learning a language is also an end in and of itself - an activity that is intellectually stimulating and even pleasurable for its own sake, regardless of how it is 'used'. Perhaps that's an outdated, esoteric and even elitist view, but I genuinely think that being able to study something useless but enjoyable is a really great opportunity. It's an approach to langage learning that seems to be sadly absent from the new curriculum.
Just as an interesting footnote, in last year's HSC there were 162 candidates sitting for the Chinese Beginners and Continuers exams combined and 180 sitting for the Latin Continuers exam. 37 did Chinese Extension and 97 did Latin Extension. (These figures don't include the backgound speakers, which are of course much higher).