A Pyrrhic victory for Modern Greek

first_imgThe announcement made by the Federal Government this week to include Modern Greek in the National Curriculum was fuelled by “political” motives, says Professor Michael Tsianikas, head of the Greek department, Flinders University. A statement released on Monday by Federal MP Steve Georganas and Federal MP Maria Vamvakinou announced the inclusion of Modern Greek in the National School Curriculum but although Professor Tsianikas says this is a “very positive outcome” for the Modern Greek language in Australia, he says that the future of the language is still under threat. Professor Tsianikas was quick to point out to Neos Kosmos the challenges the Greek language faces: challenges that could potentially threaten the life of Modern Greek being taught in Australia. “I believe that the current decision to include Modern Greek in the curriculum – which is a very positive outcome – is just a political one and the government made it under the pressure of more then 25,000 signatures.” In the statement Mr Georganas congratulated the efforts of the Greek community for lobbying the Federal Parliament however, Professor Tsianikas found that when he asked members of the community to help his bid to lobby to principals to ensure the Modern Greek program stayed alive in government primary and secondary schools, his pleas fell on deaf ears. “Over the last few years, I was asking all associations here in South Australia, if they have any connection with any programs in government schools and if they could visit the principal and talk to them about the Modern Greek program and support the program with fundraising and the answer was nothing,” he said. Having qualified teachers is another issue Modern Greek faces, and all languages being taught in Australia. “If you don’t have the proper teachers how are the students going to learn and love the language? he asks. Australia faces a shortage of qualified language teachers: principals in government schools around Australia are choosing to close down language programs that don’t have adequate teaching staff, says Professor Tsianikas. The decision to include Modern Greek in a schools curriculum depends solely on the principal. And with over 150 languages currently in the education system, the budget is very limited. Without receiving any pressure or information from the community, the principals of government schools are free to make their own decisions. He points out that although the Greek language is safe in Greek Orthodox Colleges, they need to be more accessible to the general Australian society – in the same way Catholic colleges do in Australia – and to cease to rely on people with a Greek background enrolling, in order to ensure their future. Italian is one of the languages that is being prioritised by the Federal Government, along with Chinese Mandarin. And although the numbers of people speaking Italian in Australia have declined like the Greek language has, Professor Tsianikas says it’s because the Catholic education sector are more organised and open their education to the general society allowing the language to prosper. Professor Tsianikas says that the decline in the Greek language in Australian society and the rise of Asian languages, such as Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese – adds to the logic used by principals when choosing a language for their school. The added financial incentive received from the Federal Government to pursue Asian languages, Professor Tsianikas believes also threatens the Modern Greek language in primary and secondary government schools. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the number of people speaking the Greek language in Australia is on the decline. There is a six per cent drop from 1996 – 2006 from around 269,000 people speaking Greek in 1999 to around 252,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, Asian languages, such as Chinese, Indian, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese and Vietnamese , are on the rise. “One after the other the [government] schools will say goodbye to the Greek program because numbers are falling and the challenges for the Asian languages are so high and the Australian government are investing a lot of money, around $62 million over the last three years. So the school principals will easily shift from the Greek language or any other languages to an Asian language.” Professor Tsianikas points out the commercial relationship Australia has with Asian countries in lieu of Greece such as financial exchanges between the countries; international students; and the social fabric of Australia leaning more towards an Asian society then a Greek one. “[Asian] societies are going up in Australia and they are using their languages more than any other languages so it’s clear to me that the Indian, the Chinese, the Vietnamese and Korean language is the most obvious choice for Australia to go for,” he says. “If you want to look at it realistically,” explains Professor Tsianikas, ” then … we need to develop different strategies. “I believe we have to say goodbye to the dream that the Greek language will be highly respected in Australia or taught by all sorts of school in all sorts of systems. I think the Greek language will develop in various sectors, in various schools and we have to concentrate our efforts and support the language in these sectors.” Professor Tsianikas highlights the importance of the second and third generations supporting Greek Orthodox colleges and community schools that endeavour to teach Modern Greek and emphasises the need to ensure that their enrolments each year remain high, if not, these sectors are “immediately threatened”. As a positive, Professor Tsianikas says that Modern Greek, as a language, was being supported in primary school and this could be the key to the language’s survival. “It’s not a simple issue; we are happy [the Federal Government has] decided to include Modern Greek, for me it’s a good decision, but a political decision that doesn’t really mean anything.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more