Letter to the Senate Enquiry ‘Teaching and learning – maximising our investment in Australian schools’

To Whom It May Concern

The Westralian Association for the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (WATESOL), the peak body for TESOL education in Western Australia, is pleased to present for your consideration a submission to the Senate Enquiry Teaching and learning – maximising our investment in Australian schools.

The submission was prepared and reviewed by WATESOL councillors and members who possess extensive educational qualifications and expertise in the field of English as an Additional Language or Dialect.

We would welcome the opportunity to consult further with the Senate Committee and to collaborate in the planning, development and implementation of programs and strategies which will enhance educational provision for learners of English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D).

Our aim is to develop the Standard Australian English (SAE) language and literacy skills of EAL/D students as we recognise that the principal role of schooling in Australia is teaching SAE language, literacy and numeracy to facilitate involvement within the broader community. We advocate for appropriate methods based on research and best practice to achieve this aim for these students.

Unfortunately, many EAL/D students in Australian contexts are not being provided with appropriate or adequate teaching and learning programs.

In order to best address the diversity of the EALD cohort, our submission is presented in three parts, the first concerning migrant/ refugee students, the second concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and the third highlighting educational inequities faced by Cocos Malay students in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

In general, WATESOL calls on the Federal Government to ensure that EAL/D learners are not rendered invisible under the umbrella of ‘literacy for all’, but that their special and diverse EAL/D learning needs are acknowledged and catered for according to international best practice and research based methods. To do otherwise, would be to disempower and alienate some of our most vulnerable young people.

It is our belief that EAL/D learners will benefit from greater accountability by schools over the EAL/D support provided.  The answer may lie in a system that monitors their educational outcomes using an appropriate EAL/D-specific monitoring tool (as distinct from judging their second or additional language development according to native speaker criteria) and a Capability Framework for their teachers, which ensures learners have access to appropriate and targeted EAL/D teaching delivered by appropriately qualified EAL/D specialists – ideally with tertiary qualifications in TESOL.

WA has been at the forefront of EAL/D education in Australia in the past decade, thanks to the Department of Education’s  ESL/ESD Progress Map, a monitoring tool for K-10 EA/D English language learners and the School Curriculum and Standards Authority’s WACE Course in EAL/D. This course was the first in the country to provide formal specialised teaching and learning programs for a broad range of EALD learners, including pathways to work, TAFE and university.  WATESOL hopes that these gains inform the next chapter of EAL/D education on the national stage, as the Australian Curriculum and the Professional Standards for Teachers are implemented.

Yours sincerely,

Khalin Driver

Ms Khalin Driver, WATESOL President

The full submission is available here.