Australia’s new national curriculum has made new language curricula available, including Korean. The move will see an increase on the number of students at primary and high school levels studying the language.
Despite the growing popularity of Korea’s culture and language around the world—just think K-pop and K-drama—study of Korean in Australian schools has stagnated in recent years.
The timing is now right to improve the situation with the support of the new national education curriculum opening opportunities to study Korean, the New Colombo Plan offering young Australians the change to study in Korea, and the Korea–Australia Free Trade Agreement creating more business opportunities than ever before.
Korea is one of Australia’s most important trading neighbours in the region. The importance of Korean language and literacy is one of the Australia–Korea Foundation’s four priorities for 2015–16. The aim is to deepen Australia’s understanding of Korean society, politics and economy, as well as position Australia to take advantage of new opportunities.
Dr Gi-Hyun Shin, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages, is leading the charge at the University of New South Wales. Dr Shin and his team are joining forces and pooling resources with other important stakeholders, such as the Korean Studies Association of Australasia, Korean Education Centre and Korean Cultural Office, to push forward on increasing the availability of Korean language studies.
Dr Shin has, for example, secured funding from the Australia Korea Foundation and the Korean Government for principals and senior officers from curriculum authorities and departments of education to visit Korea and identify actions needed to improve student numbers. In doing so, he hopes to increase Korea’s relevance among decision-makers in education.
Dr Shin believes the new national curriculum will be of great help.
‘While in the last five years we have seen a small increase in student numbers in Korean language classes at universities, perhaps because young people feeling a closer connection to Korea than their parents and principals did, we need to work on further convincing those in the education system here to recognise the relevancy of Korea to Australia’s future,’ said Dr Shin.
Dr Shin says small but noticeable impacts are being achieved. ‘Approximately 150 New South Wales principals have visited Korea in the last five years,’ he cites as an example. ‘And Higher School Certificate Korean Beginners courses will resume from 2016 in New South Wales.’
At university level, Australia’s New Colombo Plan, a signature $100-million initiative over five years, provides opportunities for undergraduate students to study and take internships in many countries, including the Republic of Korea, focusing on language and/or their field of study.
The New Colombo Plan is intended to be transformational, deepening Australia's relationships in the region, at individual level and by expanding university, business and other stakeholder links. Many world-class universities in Korea offer courses in English and provide a springboard for Australian students wanting to take advantage of the deepening and growing relationship between the two countries.
Australia and Korea have much in common. Korea is Australia’s third-largest export market with Australian exports of goods and services worth more than $22 billion in 2013–14. The two countries share strong, complementary economies, vibrant cultures and an enduring commitment to supporting peace and prosperity in the region.
With opportunities in education, science and technology, culture, media, sports, leisure, tourism and community activities being afforded to Australians, the need to better understand Korea and its culture has never been greater—including through language.