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What languages should children be learning to get ahead?

Warren Midgley writes in The Conversation (24.3.17) that there is usually a historical reason why schools teach certain languages. But, the author argues, as new economies emerge, such languages may no longer be the best ones to learn.

‘There are 7,099 known languages in the world today. Choosing which of these to teach our children as a second language is an important decision, but one that may be based more on feelings than facts.

‘There are several different ways of thinking about what languages we should offer at school. Research suggests that Australian school children may not be studying the right ones.

‘… In Australia, each state has jurisdiction over which languages to offer in their schools, and so the regulations differ slightly.

‘In Queensland, for example, the Department of Education and Training instructs principals to make decisions about the choice of language, in consultation with their school communities.

‘Part of the complexity around making these decisions is that it takes many years to train school teachers who are capable of teaching languages. Therefore it is difficult to respond quickly to changes in demand for different languages to be taught at schools.’

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