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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 November 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2016 7 NEWS student cohort that attend campuses with a curriculum that reflects those who have Greek as a primary language. The figures in table No. 2 represent a summary of the Community School sector. Most people are aware that there is a drop off in enrolments after Grade 6 but also after Year 9. The decline, however, starts much earlier from Grade 3, are we intervening too late one might ask? Furthermore Prep enrolments are 37 per cent lower than Grade 1, this clearly presents an opportunity to encourage parents to enrol their children earlier. What's happening with VCE? TABLE OF YEAR 12 VCE ENROLMENTS Year VCE Greek 2007 318 2008 292 2009 258 2010 272 2011 243 2012 256 2013 276 2014 274 2015 271 2016 262 Contrary to many alarmist reports, VCE Modern Greek numbers are not collapsing. The present Year 12 VCE Modern Greek enrolments sit at 262 students, of which 188 (72 per cent) attend Communi- ty Schools. Since 2009 they have been quite stable. No doubt the last few years' enrolment numbers have been stabilised by the influx of new students from Greece. This level has also caused some angst, with some parents and educators calling for the introduction of two streams. One viewpoint is that the newly-arrived students from Greece, who naturally have higher oral proficiency, are discouraging local students from pursuing Greek at VCE level, while many others claim that two levels are unnecessary and the matter is creating a distraction from the main battles that should be pursued. Local Greek-Australian students, if they apply themselves, are more than capable of holding their ground − after all, half the exam is in English where they have a comparative advantage. Long-term, it is important that VCE enrolment numbers remain healthy and the curriculum isn't diluted, as these students also potentially represent the Greek language teachers of the future. So what are the main battles? In my opinion there are three main challenges: a) improving teacher and curriculum quality, b) lifting overall student enrolments and c) getting students to stay at Greek school longer. Greater enrolment numbers and higher retention rates will flow through to larger numbers in high school and stable VCE numbers. All these three strategies can be worked upon simultaneously and reinforce each other. A good example is the professional development workshops conducted during the September school holidays by the Greek Community of Melbourne but open to participation to all educators from all providers. Other examples are the seminars and workshops hosted by the MGTAV (Modern Greek Teachers Association Victoria). All teachers must be involved in continuous improvement, it's imperative if one is to improve student engagement and retention. Don't forget as of a few years ago before the economic crisis in Greece, there was actually a shortage of Greek teachers in Melbourne. Anyone in Melbourne with half-decent Greek and some methodology training could become employed in teaching Greek. By having better prepared and equipped teachers, especially in the earlier years, it should lead to better retention rates as retention is closely linked to understanding and enjoyment. We mustn't forget that today's students are tomorrow's parents, whether they send their children to Greek classes will be linked directly to their own personal experiences. How does one increase student numbers and overall participation? There might be more than 10,000 students doing some sort of Greek language study but there are probably at least if not more than 10,000 potential students not pursuing Greek. It is necessary to develop an exact understanding of the reasons and then develop appropriate strategies. One can think of all sorts of reasons: inconvenient locations, unsuitable times, crowded after-hours schedule, mixed marriages, lifestyle demands, financial etc. Dean Kalimniou recently wrote an excellent piece containing case studies on those who attend or don't attend Greek school and why. It really exposed how complex the social dimension is, and what strategies does one employ if intervention in the social dynamics of family relationships is required? However, I would say that a very large proportion (and often where both parents are of Greek background) simply choose not to send their children to Greek school as it's a low priority. Other activities outrank it, pushing it down in the pecking order. These reasons need to be clearly understood and misconceptions need to be dispelled. In a survey conducted by the GOCMV a few years ago, parents were asked why they chose the afterhours school their child attends. Almost two thirds mentioned loca- tion was the key factor. With Melbourne's sprawling population, is there scope for new campuses in emerging suburbs? Melbourne is littered with Greek-based soccer clubs. Their junior teams have footballers from all ethnic backgrounds. In my experience over the years, more than half of junior footballers that have at least one Greek parent don't go to Greek school. How can we incentivise these kids and parents? Out in the community there is probably a cohort who I describe as the 'oops, I forgot to go to Greek School' generation. How do we tap into these students and provide a suitable program for them to follow. No single person or organisation has all the answers, or all the questions for that matter. If we're serious about Greek language learning, it's imperative we invest more time and resources in dealing with its challenges. There is no silver bullet solution, but if we want Greek language learning to remain vibrant in the foreseeable future we must be proactive in addressing challenges and reversing apathy. We must be prepared to experiment with alternative solutions in promoting strategies to encourage more children to embrace Greek language study. * Figures and statistics have been sourced from the Victorian Department of Education.
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