The Anglican School Googong is temporarily suspending its Indonesian language course from 2019 while it reviews its languages program.
It is the second school this month to consider dropping Indonesian, following a similar move by Canberra’s Narrabundah College, which sparked a petition from students to save the language class.
A member of the school community, who asked to remain anonymous, said that students at the Anglican School Googong engaged very positively with the Indonesian language and they would be significantly disadvantaged without it.
“We’re supposed to be preparing children for a globalised society. It’s what parents signed up for when they took a chance with a new school that opened in 2015,” the community member said.
Those values have been left by the wayside without parent consultation and have devastated the parent trust with the executive.
“Through a lack of understanding of Indonesia and of their customs and their language we have absolutely damaged our relationship with Indonesia.”
Australian National University Indonesian expert George Quinn said there was a huge gap in our education when it came to Indonesian language and culture.
“Indonesia is a huge nation, right up on our doorstep, and an immediate neighbor whose economy is taking off in an extraordinary fashion. The education system is failing to notice and take advantage of this,” Dr Quinn said.
“There are tremendous commercial opportunities that are being passed up. You cannot maximise your opportunities if you stick with English alone, and it gives the impression that Australia is slack and incompetent in [its] approach.”
Dr Quinn said Indonesia was one of the great non-English speaking parts of the world, and that “if you want to get your foot in the door beyond the hotel lobbies, you need the language”.
He said dropping Indonesian in schools would mean Australian students were left behind on the world stage.
“Bilingualism is becoming the norm. Your average mainstream Australian is not bilingual so we are becoming more and more marginalized when it comes to languages,” he said.
Principal Merryn Clarksmith said she would “never not have languages” at the school.
“It is a momentary pause while we make sure we’re on the right track so it’s the best possible program for our students. I place great value on the learning of language and that’s why the review is taking place,” she said.
Ms Clarksmith said there was a great deal of support for Indonesian in the school and that she “imagines it would be one of the many possible languages that came back in”.
“The kids love it. There’s good parent support for the Indonesian language and we know they are our close neighbours … that places Indonesia as an important language to consider.”
Ms Clarksmith said there would be community consultations in the first term of 2019 as part of the review. She said it wasn’t necessary to suspend the teaching of the language, but that she had made the choice to do so to “give us the best possible platform to run our review from to look at our strategies”.
“I can’t predict the outcome but we will engage with the school community, with students and various agencies in order to make the best decision for the school,” she said.
The member of the school community said as far as staff and parents were concerned it seemed the decision had “been timed at the end of the year as a last minute decision to hush it up and provide minimum opportunities for feedback.”
They described the school’s response as “extremely negative both for the loss of the language and the staff”. A petition to reinstate Indonesian at the school has reached 76 signatures.