Bilingual & Multilingual Forum in Canberra [fr]
Bilingualism has never been so topical in Australia. Bilingual programs in Australian schools are booming, in particular French-English bilingual programs. These schools are now gathered in the dynamic Australian Association of French English Bilingual Schools (AAFEBS). This flourishing network is comprised of 10 Australian public schools in the ACT, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria (soon to be 12 with a new program in Adelaide being developed by two schools). Over the last 2 years, the Embassy has supported and organized several events aimed at promoting bilingual education in Australia, including public lectures in Sydney and Melbourne, a symposium on vernacular languages in the Pacific with the University of Sydney, and professional learning for the teachers of the French-English bilingual network annually.
As bilingual programs are currently flourishing in Australia, the French Embassy wished to dedicate a whole day to the subject of what is happening within the French bilingual network by gathering scholars, professionals and organisations from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia to share and discuss good practices regarding bilingualism and/or multilingualism in education at the Oceania-Pacific regional scale at the ANU, who has shared a Pacific expertise partnership with the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) since 2011.
More than 80 participants attended this stimulating symposium on bilingual education throughout the day, which was followed by a reception and a public lecture on multilingualism in the evening attended by nearly 200 people. Three complimentary topics were explored during the symposium: bilingualism and vernacular languages, bilingualism and European/Asian languages, and bilingualism and neuropsychology.
Scholars, including renowned educational experts such as Professor Joseph Lo Bianco (University of Melbourne), gathered together with schools and organisations from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia to enable them to disseminate good practices, and reflect upon school policies of bilingualism/multilingualism.
As far as French programs were concerned, participants heard from the experiences of French-English bilingual programs in Australia (Telopea Park School/Lycée franco-australien de Canberra’s model) and New Zealand (the awarded Birkdale Road School/L’Etoile du Nord’s program) and French-Kanak programs in New Caledonia (where there are also French-English bilingual program in 5 public schools).
These questions are extremely relevant to Australia, which has bilingual programs in both European and Asian languages, such as the bilingual, bi-national French-Australia Telopea Park in Canberra, and which has also implemented language programs for Australia’s indigenous communities.
On a wider scale, these questions are of paramount importance to the Oceania-Pacific region where regional and national languages must co-exist. Nearly 2,000 languages are spoken in this area, which is a third of the world’s languages, some of them critically endangered and others experiencing a renewal.
French-English bilingualism in Australia
The French language is taught as a foreign language to nearly 250,000 students in Australian schools. The French language is currently the leader in bilingual education in Australia, despite being challenged by Asian languages, which are strongly supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan. Bilingual school programs are multiplying in Australia. Since September 2015, the 10 bilingual French-English schools (from ACT, NSW, Victoria, and Queensland) have been members of the very dynamic network of the AAFEBS (Australian Association of French English Bilingual Schools). A new program will begin in February 2017 in Adelaide.