Foundations for the Federal Government’s Asian Century education objectives have already been laid in Geraldton.
Indonesian is taught at 10 schools, Mandarin offered at Geraldton Grammar and Japanese at Nagle Catholic College.
The government’s objective to give students access to studies of Asia throughout their schooling has, however, raised concerns over funding, teacher shortage and viable class sizes.
Nagle Catholic College principal Declan Tanham said offering Japanese for the past 10 years had been costly, but worthwhile.
“Running the program is expensive as you don’t get large numbers of kids doing languages and you end up with small classes,” he said.
“By its nature, teaching Japanese is not like teaching mathematics and kids have to go out and have immersion in the country and its culture.
“We take the view that it’s worth doing and are happy to absorb the cost as it really adds to the fabric of the college.”
Mr Tanham said sourcing teachers was difficult, with many accepting higher paid positions in legal and mining sectors.
John Willcock College principal Julie Campbell said the ability to attract qualified language teachers with in-country experience was key to the Asian Century White Paper.
Geraldton Senior College principal Garry Simmons said viable class sizes would need to be established to allow Indonesian for Year 11 and 12 students.
Australia’s relationship with Asia is a priority in the Australian Curriculum and the majority of Geraldton schools offer an Asian language.
A number of schools are engaged in programs to enhance connections with Asia and have established relationships with partner schools.
Five schools are engaged in the Australia-Indonesia School BRIDGE project and Geraldton Primary School has been accepted to join next year.
The project supports intercultural understanding by partnering sister schools to strengthen engagement between Australia and Indonesia.
The Geraldton Indonesian Language Hub was established in 2011 and includes representatives from six public schools.
Hub co-ordinator and Mt Tarcoola Primary School Indonesian teacher Tiana Purba-Barnard said they worked to prepare Year 7 and 9 students for transition into different schools and ultimately aimed to establish Indonesian for Year 11 and 12 students.
From now Asia-literacy will be a core requirement in new education reforms negotiated between the Commonwealth, States and Territories and other authorities.
Education Minister Peter Garrett said the National Plan for School Improvement would ensure access to Asian culture, history and languages, from the first day of school, through to Year 12.
“That will give the next generations of Australians the knowledge and capabilities to prosper in the Asian Century,” he said.