School operations

Languages Education

What makes a quality language program

This page includes information on what schools can do to make sure their language programs are high quality.

Effective learning

Learning a language is a sequential and cumulative process. Students learn most effectively through:

  • frequent, regular lessons including those conducted entirely in the target language
  • engagement over an extended period of time
  • opportunities to practise and meaningfully use the language in authentic situations.

We recommend schools plan a language program that is:

  • primarily aimed at developing proficiency in the target language
  • taught by a qualified teacher of the language
  • delivered for a minimum of 150 minutes per week, spread as evenly as possible across the week
  • strongly supported by the school community, including by the school administration, staff, parents and students and appropriate partnerships
  • resourced to an appropriate level, comparable with other learning areas in the school
  • flexible in its approach to delivery and resourcing, including changing from year to year as required
  • part of a planned pathway for languages learning.

Continuity and frequency of language learning will contribute significantly to a student gaining proficiency in the language.

Some primary schools may face challenges in providing 150 minutes of languages education per week. If a school is unable to initially provide the recommended 150 minute time allocation it should explicitly build into its Strategic Plan strategies detailing how the school will incrementally increase time allocation for languages education. Meeting the recommended time allocation will ensure students have the opportunity to achieve a level of linguistic proficiency.

The department's Languages Unit can advise schools on strategies to extend students' exposure to the language they are learning and meet the recommended time allocation of 150 minutes per week of languages education.

School and community commitment

Schools should develop language programs through transparent consultation, and ensure the school and broader community are informed about the benefits of languages education. This will ensure their support and commitment for the program and enable its long-term viability. School and community commitment to a language program can also be developed through embedding languages learning into the culture of the school.

Refer to the guidance chapter Start a new language program for information on consulting with and engaging the school community in a school language program and Promote learning a language for materials to promote learning a language to students and the community.

Flexible approaches, pathways and partnerships

Greater collaboration between schools, in and across clusters, allows them to share resources and ideas. It also creates languages learning pathways for students moving between schools in a locality or in the transition from primary to secondary education. Locally developed strategies, including blended learning, can also sustain language programs, especially in remote areas where issues of distance and staffing impact on a school's capacity to provide a program.

A flexible approach to delivery may be necessary to sustain a language program through short term or year-to-year issues, particularly in relation to staffing. Every effort should be made to provide continuity for programs when short term issues arise. Schools should consider alternative approaches such as the use of video conferencing to share access to a qualified language teacher when one is not available on site.

Programs which are linked to other schools or have external support are more likely to be continued. Schools with sister school relationships where connections are made around language programs provide support and motivation for both students and staff to maintain the programs.

Schools are also encouraged to explore cluster or cooperative arrangements to share language teachers and language support staff, and to share curriculum planning and resources (for example, linking students and teachers from different schools to undertake learning activities, sharing electronic and hard copy resources, curriculum planning to ensure consistency and continuity, and flexible delivery via virtual conferencing).

Partnerships with the Victorian School of Languages (VSL)External Link or a community language schoolExternal Link can also offer opportunities to strengthen language education, creating more opportunities for students to use the languages they are learning in meaningful and authentic ways.

Student motivation and engagement

Motivation is a consistently strong predictor of successful language learning.

Student motivation and engagement with languages learning is increased when:

  • language programs are recognised and valued by parents, school leadership, teachers and the wider community
  • student achievements are recognised and celebrated within the school and broader community
  • students understand the cognitive, social and practical benefits of learning a language
  • students can use the language they are learning for authentic, meaningful communication
  • students have specific goals for languages learning
  • students have regular opportunities to practice in a supportive environment where fluency rather than accuracy is the initial aim
  • students have an interest in or understanding of the culture associated with the language.
Guidance chapter on what makes a quality language program

Reviewed 27 March 2024

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