Papers & Workshops



Many Voices, One Tongue: The Role of Language in Australian Schools


Dr Nigel Bagnall

Faculty of Education, University of Sydney, Australia



Language is high politics in Australia. Which groups within society gain maximum advantage in a multi-cultural country such as this? The recent Howard government retreat on multi-ethnic issues in general has seen less funding available for many programs previously seen as vital to the perpetuation of the multi-cultural state. What effect does the inclusion or exclusion of different languages have upon various native speakers? Does the language of instruction in a country make native speakers of other languages feel alienated? Does the exclusion of Aboriginal languages, in particular, make the education system an alienating experience? Does the language of instruction suggest something about the status of that language, and those languages that are excluded, or is it merely a convenient means of communication? Is language the key to unifying all the different linguistic groups within Australian society? How can education providers best serve the interests of all students, not just those whose mother tongue is English? This paper will look at the contemporary Australian education scene and suggest a direction for future language policy heading into the twenty first century.

  Presentation Format: 45 min. paper

RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

5-9 July 2000

Equipment: Overhead Projector