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A Bill that will ensure every child in years 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language is receiving huge support from a range of communities, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.

“Over the last few months I have met and contacted a number of individuals and organisations regarding the Bill and a diverse range of communities have shown their support.

“It is great to have the support of key organisations which promote many different languages including Pasifika, Asian and European languages. Some of these organisations include the Asia NZ Foundation, Auckland Languages Strategy group, Confucious Institute, NZ Korean Language Teachers Association, NZ Association of Korean Schools, Waitakere Indian Association and the Supreme Sikh Society. I have also received a large number of support letters and emails from the public as well as support from some principals and teachers.

“Over the coming weeks I plan to meet with more stakeholders to gain further support for the bill. My colleague Jo Hayes has also been liaising with key organisations and individuals who support the focus on ensuring there is universal access to Te Reo. I will be continuing to work with Jo to ensure key iwi, organisations and individuals are briefed on the Bill.

“We know the enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits from learning a second language. It is increasingly being recognised the importance of language, culture and the development of young people’s oral language skills in having a positive impact on their achievement at school.

“My Bill would require the Minister of Education to set at least ten national priority languages for schools following public consultation, and require 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.

“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.

“I am open to a phased approach to deliver this policy over a number of years. This would help ensure that the workforce is in place for the different priority languages. I am keen to work cross-party on an implementation plan, as this initiative will require the support of successive governments.

“We need to acknowledge and embrace New Zealand’s increasing linguistic and cultural diversity by creating opportunities for our young people to learn languages other than English in our schools. I hope that we will be able to have a healthy debate about access to heritage languages at select committee.

“I have met with key political leaders or spokespeople from each Party in Parliament to discuss the Bill and ask for their support. It is clear to me that there is political will and public support to strengthen languages and I am hoping that political parties can support the Bill to select committee.”

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