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Pathways for Australian school students to achieve high levels of proficiency in languages other than English

Norris, Lindy G B (1999) Pathways for Australian school students to achieve high levels of proficiency in languages other than English. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study maps and profiles the existing pathways for the learning of languages other than English (LOTE) in the Australian context. The study was undertaken with a view to "testing" the Rudd Report (1994) hypothesis that continuous language learning from Year 3 to Year 12 with time beyond 1040 hours and using an immersion model, would provide a pathway to proficiency for the 2 per cent of Australian school learners targeted through the National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) Strategy to achieve excellent language learning outcomes during their school years.

The evidence for this research suggests, however, that attempts by Australian educational jurisdictions to provide second language learning pathways through continuous study from primary through to secondary education and beyond have been largely unsuccessful. Continuous learning has not equated with cumulative learning towards proficiency. Given this finding it is suggested that a pathway to proficiency may better be facilitated by focusing on enhancing language learning through the use of a number of interventions that can be applied at different phases of learning to speed and enrich the process of language acquisition. It is the contention of the researcher that this alternative notion of "pathway" is less likely to be compromised by bureaucracy and other external forces that militate against the process of language acquisition and the attainment of proficiency.

In order to draw conclusions about proficiency potential and pathways to proficiency attainment, a Proficiency Potential Framework was developed for this study. This framework enables LOTE programs and their learners to be profiled in order to determine how well programs and their learners "fit into" their broader educational and community environments, and to assess how language is seen and used within these environments. The profiling process used in this study provided significant information about what is required for LOTE programs to support proficiency attainment and for language learners within these programs to become proficient.

In addition to providing information about the proficiency potential offered to learners through Australian LOTE programs, the case study profiles also enabled the identification of patterns and trends associated with the teaching and learning of second or foreign languages in the Australian context.

Beyond a critique of current Australian practices in the teaching and learning of second or foreign languages, information from this study suggests future directions for the development of a coordinated and broader approach to second language proficiency in Australian educational jurisdictions.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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