If a fourth-term National government makes good on their promise to give all Kiwi kids the chance to learn a second language, language teachers will be very much in demand. AUT is looking to get the ball rolling with the announcement of 20 scholarships.
The scholarships will pay the fees of 20 Master of Professional Language Studies students annually. The degree targets students who already have a qualification and some experience of teaching a language. The qualification “offers graduates the opportunity to develop advanced professional skills in teaching English or another language”.
Programme Coordinator Clare Conway says students on the programme are often experienced teachers of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) or additional languages, but the programme is also available for teachers of te reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.
A feature of the master’s degree is its emphasis on practice as well as theory, she says.
“The capstone project at the end is called reflective practice. Masters’ students identify an area they would like to focus on, try it in the classroom, reflect and adapt. We’ve had people doing a range of topics from using We Chat to enhance learning practice for Chinese or exploring multi-modal approaches to improve high school students’ learning of Japanese, to developing intercultural communicative language in the classroom. The importance of developing intercultural competencies is gaining recognition, with 160 languages now spoken in New Zealand.”
With a background in ESL (English as a second language) and FLE (Français langue étrangère – French as a foreign language) teaching and experience as an English and French translator, Master of Professional Language Studies graduate Maryam Taghavi enrolled to further her career.
“I was researching my study options, and after reading the outline of what we would study in the Master of Professional Language Studies, I realised it aligned well with my interests and was exactly what I wanted to study. It also seemed relevant to my previous work experience.”
National’s languages commitment
At the launch of National’s education policy agenda this time last month, a surprise addition was a $160 million fund to “give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose”, as Bill English said at the time.
“Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.”
“With schools battling growing behavioural and mental health difficulties, overcrowding and teacher shortages, Sunday’s pledge to help young children learn one of 10 ‘priority’ languages has come out of left field,” New Zealand Principals’ Federation President Whetu Cormick told stuff.co.nz.
Data from the Ministry of Education demonstrates that the uptake of languages across all sectors has declined drastically since the early 1990s. Universities have been heavily curtailing their language courses, as numbers enrolled drop below economically viable levels.
Many commentators have questioned whether the money could be better spent in areas of more immediate urgency.
Labour’s Chris Hipkins wasn’t specific when asked whether his party plans to boost multilingualism in New Zealand primary schools, although he says their government’s first priority in the space would be to strengthen access to te reo Māori learning.
“There is enormous value in second language learning and the Labour Party will certainly encourage and support the availability of a greater range of languages in our schools.
“Our first priority will be making sure we have enough teachers to ensure that all New Zealand children have the chance to learn te reo Māori, the first language of this country.