Music and Language Education Adjournment

Much of the discussion on the new national curriculum has focused on literacy and numeracy. Less focus has been given to the other important areas of the curriculum. I am pleased to note that languages, along with the arts, including music, are part of the second phase of developing the national curriculum.

Much of the discussion on the new national curriculum has focused on literacy and numeracy. Less focus has been given to the other important areas of the curriculum. I am pleased to note that languages, along with the arts, including music, are part of the second phase of developing the national curriculum.

Besides the very practical benefits, both music and languages are valuable in their own right. Music education enriches the lives of students and those around them. It brings joy and pleasure. It connects students to our shared cultural heritage, so much of which is bound up in music. Music opens a window of opportunity through which we can learn about and share in the lives and experiences of those from different nations around the world. Music in itself transcends cultural diversity, breaking down cultural barriers. Music gives students the opportunity to express themselves creatively, and it has long been understood that music in schools improves the teaching and learning environment for other subjects as well.

Both my parents are professional musicians. They have spent all of their lives in music—my father in composing and performing, after a very brief time as a school music teacher; my mother in performing and a very long time as a school music teacher. I am proud to say my father is still composing and performing and my mother is still teaching music.

Recently, I was very pleased to be able to announce that Mr Shain Kurelja, a teacher at Aspendale Gardens Primary School, had won an award in the Teacher category of the 2009 National Awards for Excellence in School Music Education. Mr Kurelja was one of only 12 teachers across the nation to receive this award. As part of the award, Shain received a grant of $5,000 to further his professional learning in the field of music education. Shain has made an outstanding contribution to our community by demonstrating the enthusiasm, passion and dedication needed to provide a positive schooling experience for our students. The award is a wonderful acknowledgement of Shain’s expertise in music education and one which our community is immensely proud of.

I believe that musical education should be made available to all students and that it should be appropriately resourced to ensure that all students are given the opportunity to learn and enjoy music in all its varied forms.

 Education in the 21st century has broadened from the basic three Rs. The emergence of the technological era and the growth in non-Western European economies have brought the expansion of our boundaries. The distances between countries, peoples and regions have shrunk. Australia can no longer rely upon geographical isolation for an insular approach to language.

If we wish to continue our economic development it is imperative that we promote the study of language and culture in our schools. In particular, Australia will require a much higher proficiency in Asian language. East Asia is the destination of almost 60 per cent of Australia’s exports. One of the wonderful developments in modern Australian history is the shift of our focus as a nation to our own region. Our increased engagement with East Asia and South-East Asia has enhanced our culture, our economy, our self-perception and our intellectual life.

In opposition to the view that these changes make the learning of Asian languages critical, there is an alternative view that holds that, because English is developing into a common global language, Australians can be complacent in our approach to the learning of new languages. Of course, this view ignores two issues. Firstly, the opportunity will be lost for Australians to enjoy the intrinsic benefits, beyond the practical benefits, that arise from learning another language. Learning a second language provides an additional framework for observing and understanding our world and our experiences. Secondly, those from non-English-speaking nations will hold a competitive advantage through speaking both their native language and English.

That is why the Rudd Labor government is so strong in its support for the improved teaching and greater availability of Asian languages in schools. The $62.4 million National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program is supporting additional Asian languages classes in high school. It is providing more opportunities for teacher training support.

The Becoming Asia Literate: Grants to Schools program is part of the Rudd government’s $62.4 million Asian languages program. Aspendale Gardens Primary School has applied for funding under this program, an application which I have strongly supported. The Rudd government’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program puts Australia back on track for learning Asian languages, a track which we veered off in 2001, when the former government shut down the Asian languages program established by the Keating government in 1995. It is very good to see this program supporting the development of specialist curricula for students with advanced abilities in Asian languages and studies. I have seen, throughout my electorate, increased attention being given in all schools to Asian languages.