“If you’re talking about logical thinking in maths, it’s shown that if you have good language skills you can actually transport that into core fundamentals.”
Language skills are increasingly in demand with employers. Research has also found that students who learn a language have improved outcomes elsewhere, exhibiting improved problem-solving abilities.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has ranked Australia at the bottom of 34 advanced economies for graduates leaving high school with a second language.
Census data has also shown rising numbers of people speaking only English at home.
In NSW, students must do 100 hours of foreign language study in the early years of high school. In Victoria, languages are taught from kindergarten to Year 6.
According to the United States Foreign Service Institute, establishing basic fluency in an easier language takes 480 hours.
Any effort to boost language learning in schools could clash with a broader emphasis on “decluttering” curriculums.
“One of the fundamental issues with the current school curriculum is that it is too crowded. There is a limit to how much you can accommodate between school hours and the curriculum must champion the core competencies of literacy, numeracy and STEM,” Ms Berejiklian told the summit.
“Teachers themselves often comment to me that the overcrowding of the curriculum impacts their ability to teach effectively.”