News ID: 215036
Published: 0556 GMT May 14, 2018

Schools tackle teacher shortages with online language classes from overseas

Schools tackle teacher shortages with online language classes from overseas

Sitting in a regional western Australian classroom the last thing you would expect to hear is the hustle and bustle of the lively streets of Beijing.

But at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Geraldton, 425 kilometers north of Perth, a video link lesson with a teacher in China has helped the school overcome the problem of attracting permanent language teachers, wrote.

The program is called My Chinese Teacher and is part of the school's new way of delivering a Language Other Than English class, which is now compulsory for all students from year three in Western Australia.

St Francis Xavier Principle Ben Doyle said they turned to the program after finding it difficult to attract a long term-language teacher.

"Being a regional school some of the challenges is being able to access staff for specific subject areas," Professor Doyle said.

"One of them being Languages Other Than English — it is not a full time position either, which makes it harder to entice someone from a metropolitan area for a part time job."

He said it had been hard to deliver consistent language programs.

"At a previous school I had been at we had three language teachers in three years," he said.

"When we looked at this program it alleviates this concern."

Edith Cowan University Executive Dean of the School of Education, Professor Lynne Cohen, said while WA's new language curriculum requirements were a step in the right direction, more resources would be needed.

"If you look at Europe, all students are required to do another language when they are at school and the way we are going now is the way to go," Cohen said.

Cohen said the university was developing a graduate certificate for teachers who natively speak another language, which will be available from January 2019.

"It will not teach them the language, but it will teach them how to teach the language," she said.

Western Australia has more than 800 public schools and, according to the Department of Education, 439 of them employ language teachers, with five opportunities presently in the recruitment process.

A department spokesperson said they knew the new curriculum would increase demand for language teachers across the state, both regionally and in the metropolitan areas.

A number of initiatives have been developed to support schools, including an online Indonesian language program that can be taught by the classroom teacher.

And a short course will be offered to primary-school teachers with an interest and experience in another language.

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