Marisa Cordella, Adriana Diaz, Barbara Hanna, Noriko Iwashita and Fabiane De Oliveira Wendhausen Ramos


The unprecedented rise in population mobility together with the ever-increasing frequency of intercultural encounters and a sense of ubiquitous interconnectedness afforded by technological advancements make the development of multilingual skills and intercultural competences a vital aspect of our participation in society. In Australia, the importance of these skills has been recognised by employers (Apollo Research Institute, 2011; Foundation for Young Australians, 2016) and the newly developed Australian Curriculum.

Against this backdrop, however, languages, as a learning area, continue to struggle to achieve recognition and stability across sectors. Indeed, while several nation-wide education policies have injected sporadic funds into languages programs at compulsory level, their overall impact on developing a sustainable, long-term plan for languages provision in Australia has been negligible. Several government-commissioned reports and scholarly publications in recent years have attempted to chart the complex ecology of enabling and hindering factors leading to the success (or failure) of language programs, particularly, in the school sector (see, inter alia, ACSSO, 2007; Asia Education Foundation, 2014; Liddicoat, Scarino, & Kohler, 2018). Most of the studies have focused on the national landscape or on the situation of specific states, particularly, New South Wales and Victoria, with little attention afforded to the state of Queensland, where language learning enrolments at secondary level are amongst the lowest in the country, and have been so for the last three decades (Haugh, 2019). In addition, while these studies foreground language teachers’ and students’ perspectives, the views and agentive impact of stakeholders in school leadership positions remain largely under-researched. 

In order to address these gaps, ten metropolitan state high schools whose comparatively successful language programs may be considered counter-examples to the current state of play in the state’s languages education landscape took part in a pilot study funded by the School of Languages and Cultures under the Strategic initiative research scheme (SRIF). Eighteen School Principals and Head of Languages Teachers were interviewed to gain a deeper understanding of the ecology of languages provision in their context. Their audio-recorded conversations were transcribed and subjected to thematic and sentiment analyses. The findings point to a complex network of elements, both internal and external affordances and constraints, that contribute to the provision of languages in schools and to strengthening the viability and sustainability of their programs.



ACSSO. (2007). Attitudes towards the study of languages in Australian schools. Retrieved from http://www.acsso.org.au/application/files/2815/0837/5520/attitudestowardsthestudyoflanginausschools.pdf

Asia Education Foundation. (2014). Senior secondary languages education research project. Final Report. Melbourne: Asia Education Foundation.

Apollo Research Institute (2011). Future Work Skills 2020. Palo Alto, CA: Institute for the Future, Apollo Research Institute.

Foundation for Young Australians (2016). The New Basics. Big Data Reveals the Skills Young People Need for the New Work Order. Sydney: FYA.

Haugh, M. (21019). The Socioeconomics of Languages: Implications for Australian Schools and Beyond. MLTAQ Journal, 169, 22-33.

Liddicoat, A. J., Scarino, A., & Kohler, M. (2018). The impact of school structures and cultures on change in teaching and learning: The case of languages. Curriculum Perspectives, 38(1), 3-13.


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