The Australian Education Union and the Australian Council of TESOL Associations are calling for English as an Additional Language or Dialect education in schools to be made an equity priority in the next National Schools Reform Agreement.
AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said a renewed focus on prioritising high quality English language education and literacy provision in Australia is crucial to enhancing the skills of students from non-English speaking backgrounds.
“Targeted and supported specialist English language programs are not only essential for developing English proficiency and meeting literacy standards, but also to make sure each student from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, migrant or refugee background has the opportunity to thrive academically on a level playing field.
“Over the last two decades, Australia’s national commitment to EAL/D education has disintegrated, resulting in lack of transparency and accountability for the allocation of needs-based English language funding, downsizing of professional support, and the absence of national workforce planning for specialist EAL/D teachers.
“Consistent underfunding of public schools and the devolution of responsibility for EAL/D service provision to State and Territory governments has resulted in increased casualisation of EAL/D teachers and unqualified, out-of-field EAL/D teaching. This must be addressed.”
ACTA President Anne Keary said the exclusion of EAL/D learners as a national equity cohort from education declarations has left English language learners behind.
“This has been a failure of policy.
“Despite Australia’s diversity, there is no national education policy or planning to ensure that these English language learners meet the academic English language and literacy demands of the Australian curriculum and succeed in school.
“There are over 600,000 English language learners from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, migrant, and refugee backgrounds in Australia that need targeted and supported specialist English language programs.
“The next National School Reform Agreement is Australia’s best opportunity to reform and revitalise specialist English language provision for these students.”
AEU and ACTA will work together with all governments to secure pathways to support English language learners through EAL/D provision in schools.