Human rights news in other jurisdictions

Language course shake-up to end Asian discrimination

Bethany Hiatt | August 14, 2015
WA’s curriculum body has been forced to restructure Year 11 and 12 language courses after the Human Rights Commission found it was discriminating against students learning Asian languages.

Until this year, Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian were offered at three separate levels — first, background and second-language speaker — depending on how much exposure students had to the language in their home. But French, German and Italian were offered at just one common level.

The Human Rights Commission advised the School Curriculum and Standards Authority it had been “inadvertently discriminating” against learners of Asian languages compared with European language learners.

SCSA chief Allan Blagaich said a parent had complained to the Human Rights Commission in 2012 after their child was deemed ineligible to study Chinese as a second language.

“We then sought further advice (from the commission) and the decision was made to align the language courses to make it fair and equitable for all students,” he said.

All students taking a language in Year 11 now have to fill in detailed checklists to prove they are eligible for the course level they have applied for.

Documentation required can include copies of students’ school reports, passport pages showing when they entered Australia and records of any schools attended overseas.

An internal SCSA paper said administering the eligibility process was a “significant cost impost” for the authority and for schools.

But it was necessary to maintain the validity of Year 12 results and to make sure students benefited educationally.

“In the absence of this process, and based on past experience, it is likely that a significant number of students will attempt to enrol in a course at a lower level than is educationally appropriate, in order to gain a personal advantage by obtaining a very high score and an enhanced ATAR,” the paper said.

Figures supplied by SCSA show that of 2160 students who applied to study a language in Year 11 this year, 66 were knocked back. Most rejections were for French (22) and Chinese (18) as second languages.

Twenty-eight students appealed and seven were successful.