National MP Nikki Kaye’s second language bill is all set to pass the second reading in parliament after consensus seems to be emerging with Labour and Green Party extending their support to the bill.
This is a remarkable departure from the beginning of the year when Ms Kaye had first introduced the bill in parliament only to be told by the education Minister Chris Hipkins that the proposition was too aspirational.
“This is a very significant step for greater support for the future of second language learning and our future. I am looking forward to a national conversation about my Bill and how it can create smarter, more culturally aware New Zealanders who are better equipped to succeed in our globally connected world,” Ms Kaye said.
“I expect the languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, Maori, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Hindi and Pasifika languages,” Ms Kaye said.
Extending support to the bill, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said, “It’s better to approach this in a multi-party fashion, and not split along party lines.”
"Let's have a debate about whether having a list of priority languages is the way to go about it, or if there are other ways to go about it. We're going into this with a very open mind," Mr Hipkins said.
Introduced as a private member’s bill at the beginning of this year, the bill envisages teaching foreign priority languages in New Zealand schools, encouraging possibilities of getting the Hindi language – the fourth most widely spoken language in NZ – also included in the curriculum.
The bill is expected to pass through its second reading sometime early next year.
Subsequently, it would be going to select committees for further deliberation and engagement with members of public and wider communities.
How has the second language bill progressed so far?
The idea of inclusion of second languages as an option in NZ schools first gained traction when National Party made an electoral promise in August 2017 of the plan to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language with a proposed cash injection of $169 million.
However, initially Hindi language did not find mention in the list of languages to be offered in the National’s electoral promise – a fact vigorously raised with the then party leader and caretaker Prime Minister Bill English in an exclusive interview (Read the story here).
Subsequently, National MP Nikki Kaye introduced the bill in parliament at the beginning of this year as a private member bill.
The Labour Party had initially been reluctant to support the bill and the idea of making the option of second language available to students in NZ schools citing it was too aspirational.
However, despite the growing support and emerging consensus, on the idea of having foreign languages in NZ schools, the nervousness of arranging the logistics of delivering the second language has still not eroded completely.
Mr Hipkins said he's a bit nervous about legislating the curriculum, and the big issue will be having enough teachers.
"We really want to see a much greater emphasis on every child in NZ to have access to Maori as our indigenous language. At the moment, we don't have the resources to deliver that,” Mr Hipkins said.
What if Hindi gets included in the NZ curriculum?
The demand to include the Hindi language in the New Zealand school curriculum is not new and gains traction and wider recognition within the community time and again.
It is likely that this above development would once again spur the demand for introduction of Hindi language in NZ curriculum.
However, the important question that needs to be delved upon is if there were enough educational and logistical resources available within the community and beyond to be able to satisfactorily deliver when the time comes – an uncertainty shared by the Education Minister Mr Hipkins.
The Indian Weekender had earlier this year reported the efforts of two Wellington-based educationists Dr Pushpa Wood and Sunita Narayan who had sought to explore potential capabilities lying within our community that could possibly be ready or further developed if the popular demand of including the Hindi language in NZ curriculum is approved