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Towards a multilingual Aotearoa: National MP Nikki Kaye’s second language learning bill

Towards a multilingual Aotearoa: National MP Nikki Kaye’s second language learning bill

In a big boost to advocates of multilingualism in New Zealand, a private member’s bill that will ensure every child in years 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language was drawn from the Ballot last week.

It’s an initiative of National MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye who has released the following statement:

“Speaking more than one language has enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits. New Zealand is a diverse country where 160 languages are spoken, and it’s important that what’s being taught in schools reflects that. My Bill would require the Minister of Education to set at least ten national priority languages for schools following public consultation and places a requirement on the Crown to resource teaching these languages in primary and intermediate schools.

It will be up to school boards to decide which of the priority languages will be taught at their school. Every school will be required to deliver at least one second language, but some may choose to offer more than one. The Bill makes it clear that Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Languages will, as the official languages of New Zealand, be on the final list of ten or more priority languages schools can choose from. I’d expect that other languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi.

There is widespread support for the Bill, with an Asia New Zealand Foundation survey showing 80 per cent of New Zealanders think that school children should learn a language other than English. It has also been great to see a number of language specialists and leaders call on MPs to send the Bill to select committee for wider public debate.

Having the ability to speak a second language can be the difference in children being able to speak with their grandparents or young businesses leaders being able to better connect to markets like China and India. The Bill, with a comprehensive implementation plan, would also see a lot more young New Zealanders speaking Te Reo.

I plan to meet with key political leaders from every Party in Parliament to discuss the Bill and ask for their support. I am optimistic that they will support the Bill because they understand the importance of second language learning. I do not underestimate the investment and careful planning required to deliver this policy. I am keen to work cross-party on an implementation plan, as this initiative will require the support of successive governments."

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