Learning a second language could be child’s play for Australia’s preschoolers as the Abbott Government takes the next step in delivering its promised Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) trial.
Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley announced expressions of interest were now open for the $9.8 million pilot, which would see 40 preschools across the country participate in a one-year trial of language programmes in 2015.
The ELLA trial will use custom play-based ‘apps’ on tablet devices and all formal, approved preschool programmes with an active internet connection can apply.
Ms Ley said the ELLA trial was another election commitment the Abbott Government was delivering and was part of the Government’s longer-term vision for a more nationally-consistent approach to language studies throughout a child’s education.
“Our youngsters are inquisitive and soak up large amounts of information like sponges – often putting us adults to shame with their ability to pick up something like a new language with speed and ease,” Ms Ley said.
“As an island nation participating in a global economy, being able to communicate freely across multiple languages is also becoming more and more of a valuable asset for Australians and, frankly, a necessity for our future economic success.
“It’s also important to helping overcome social barriers and promoting inclusive communities locally, with almost one-in-five Australians speaking a language other than English at home*.”
Ms Ley said the languages for the trial included Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Indonesian, Arabic and French.
“For many of us, our children are now technology whiz kids from an early age, so this play-based approach to learning a language makes sense,” Ms Ley said.
“This is a fun and easy way to get our kids interested in learning skills for life, such as a second language, from early on in their education journey.
“It also allows preschools to introduce languages other than English into their early learning programmes without the need to bring in a formally qualified language teacher. All preschools need is an internet connection to participate!
“This will particularly benefit regional, rural and remote communities, where technological advancements such as this are helping to ensure families in the bush get the same access to high-quality early education as their city counterparts.”
Ms Ley said the ELLA software was currently in the development phase and the first series of apps would be ready to be rolled out in time for the trials beginning early next year.
Ms Ley said early childhood services had until 5pm (AEST) Monday 29 September 2014 to express their interest in participating in the trial.
Ms Ley said they could do so by visiting http://education.gov.au/early-learning-languages-australia and filling out a “simple, user-friendly” form.