National wants to give all students access to second languages in schools

National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye. Photo credit: Newshub.

National wants to give every primary and intermediate school student in the country the chance to learn a second language - but the Government doesn't support the policy.

Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye launched the Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill on Monday afternoon. It would require schools to select a "priority language" and ensure all students are given the opportunity to learn it.

The languages Bill won't pass into law unless Ms Kaye can get backing from the Government or one of its support parties. She's optimistic that could happen, but the Government's saying it won't.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins told Newshub there are not enough teachers as it is.

"At the moment the Government is focused on ensuring we have enough teachers for the subjects we offer now.

"We've inherited critical and worsening teacher shortages across a range of subjects, including languages, and addressing that is one of our top priorities."

Ms Kaye says there are cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits to speaking a second language.

"My Members Bill is about ensuring that all children in years 1-8 have universal access and resources to learn a second language," she said.

School boards would be required to select a language from a list of 10 'priority languages', but could choose to offer additional languages. The list of priority languages would include Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language, with other languages up for public consultation.

Ms Kaye says she expects languages to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi.

In the 2013 Census, the five most common languages in New Zealand were English, te reo Māori, Samoan, Hindi and Northern Chinese (including Mandarin).

National campaigned on the language policy in the lead-up to the election.