A closer look at French Australian Cooperation in the Education and Language sector
In Australian schools, French is the most taught European language (apart from English). In Australia, there were 3.7 million students in 2013 and despite the rise in popularity of Asian languages there are still 250 000 students learning French in primary and secondary schools (7% of students in Australia). There are also many students studying French at university, out of the 39 universities in Australia, 21 of them have a French department and so there are over 8 000 university students learning French (2016). The number of students learning French is only further increased with a large network of Alliance Française (30 of them), all around Australia, with six of them in the major capital cities (Canberra, Sydney Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth). In 2015, there were over 10 000 students learning at the Alliance Française.
There has been an unprecedented growth in the number of bilingual and binational schools in Australia. Today, these schools are a major aspect not only of French Australian cooperation but more broadly of the promotion of francophone countries in the world. The introduction of bilingual streams in Australia is very innovative as there are only two private schools (Lycée Condorcet in Sydney and the French Australian Preschool in Canberra) and the rest are public schools. There is an introduction of French streams in Australian public schools due to the growing need for them amongst the French community but also because each State or Territory in Australia has expressed the desire to develop bilingual programs in their schools. In September 2015, with the increase in the number of schools, in order to manage all of them, the Australian association of French-English bilingual schools was launched (AAFEBS). This association now has 12 schools (as of December 2016) with 5 of them that are accredited by the AEFE and 4 of them that are certified with LabelFranceEducation. In total there are over 3 500 students across these schools. Today, French is the only foreign language that is spread out, well-structured and as included in Australian Schools. The cultural department of the embassy of France in Australia equally participates in promoting and supporting bilingualism and even multilingualism through various initiatives such as conferences, symposiums, and staff training for the teachers part of the network.
Bilateral cooperation is developing between Australia and the Reunion Island (due to geographical proximity) and cooperation is increasing between New Caledonia and Australia as well. There has been the introduction of international streams in New Caledonian schools thanks to a signed agreement with Australia in 2015; this will be followed up with another administrative agreement between France and Australia in 2017. The new agreement will allow all French schools to introduce Australian international sections if they wish to.
The language assistants program is also an important initiative in terms of French Australian cooperation in the education and languages sector. There 50 places for English assistants in France, specially reserved for Australians to teach English in France. This initiative has further been extended with 5 language assistant positions opened specifically for Australians in New Caledonia and two positions opened in Wallis-et-Futuna. Similarly there is now a partnership between the CIEP (French education organization) and the Australian Department of Education which has opened 11 positions for French people to be language assistants in Australia in the ACT, Victoria and WA.
Since 2014, there are a number of collective commemoration projects of the Great War between France and Australia; this highlights school exchanges between the two countries. In the same context, the project of opening a bilingual and binational school has been introduced in Pozières in the Somme department.