With students originating from as far as China, Indonesia, India and Japan, The Kilmore International School has immersed itself in a multicultural environment.
Year 11 student Irene Park was born in South Korea, moving to Australia when she was three. She has studied three languages, in addition to her fluent English and Korean.
Park and five other students from TKIS have created a Bill called “Preparing Victorian students for the Asian century.” The Bill will be discussed in the Victorian Parliamentary chambers early in July, as a part of the YMCA Victorian Youth Parliament program.
The Bill demands a mandatory second language program from Prep to Year 10, in conjunction with various seminars to raise cultural awareness. All students must at least study Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese.
Currently, the percentage of Victorian students studying a second language is low. In 2012, only 12 per cent sat in language oral exams among all the VCE test takers, according to figures provided by the Education Minister.
Park said she is a strong advocate for instilling this generation with a global focus. “As an international school, we come in contact with students from around the globe on a daily basis.”
TKIS provides the International Baccalaureate, where learning a second language is compulsory. “This has enabled all students to indisputably become more aware and accepting of our international peers, as it lessens both the language barrier and the cultural barrier,” said Park.
She emphasised that learning a second language is not just about gaining the actual language skills. “Cultural norms, idioms, expressions, festivals, events, traditions, music… I was exposed to a range of incredible cultures within the different languages.”
Park learned French from Prep to Year 4, Mandarin from Year 5 to 9 and currently undertakes Indonesian for IB Diploma.
Although she acknowledged the bright side of “picking up and dropping so many languages”, she stressed the difficulty in mastering certain languages in the current education system.
“The lack of consistency with providing a streamlined second language has posed a big problem for me,” she said. “Many students have suffered from this inconsistency, resulting in not pursuing a second language for VCE, or after their schooling career.”
The Bill demands a language pathway program to ensure consistency in language education across the transition from primary to secondary school.
In July, the Bill will be discussed with other participants of the Youth Parliament program. The Bills will eventually be forwarded to the Minister for Youth Affairs, and if successful, may become Victorian legislation.
The Kilmore Internation School Youth Parliament team consists of Irene Park, Rory Sutherland, Nathaniel Long, Olivia Nadenbousch, Cameron Moir, and Brigit Robinson.
By Yuzuha Oka