foreign languages in NZ secondary schools

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education has released figures on secondary school enrollments in foreign languages in 2007, according to a newspaper report.

Education Ministry figures show nearly 70,000 pupils studied foreign languages at secondary schools last year, with 27,284 learning French.

Japanese was also popular (18,440), followed by Spanish (9531) and German (6623).

Chinese… attracted just 1687 pupils.

The total of those figures (63,565) seems considerably shy of “nearly 70,000.” So I suspect some languages more popular than Mandarin have been left off the list. Either way, Mandarin takes only about 2.5 percent of the total. And no indication is given of what percentage of those are “heritage” students.

That’s a lot of kids taking Japanese, though. Can anyone familiar with the situation in New Zealand comment on that?

I wasn’t able to locate the source of these figures. I did, however, find some figures from ten years ago, though they don’t include Mandarin. Also, I don’t understand the categories. But, FWIW:

Numbers of students studying second languages, July 1998

language secondary learners primary & intermediate learners
Japanese 21,701 13,625
French 20,990 8,413
German 7,377 3,877
Spanish 2,247 5,172

A few more lines from the 2008 report:

Under the new curriculum, schools must be “working toward” offering pupils in years 7 to 10 the option of learning a second language from 2011, in a push to make more Kiwis bilingual.

However, the ministry says it is up to schools and their communities to choose which languages are offered – meaning French is likely to remain popular.

A ministry spokesman said measures were underway to boost teachers’ ability to teach a variety of foreign languages in schools.

They included Maori medium scholarship and overseas exchange programmes.


further reading:

2 thoughts on “foreign languages in NZ secondary schools

  1. secondary = high school; primary = elementary and intermediate is the last two years of primary, which are often taught in a separate school set up as a halfway house between primary and secondary to help students adjust to secondary school, if that helps you understand the categories. The secondary figures look about right for 10 years ago (although Spanish surprises me. Maybe in Auckland), but there’s never been much foreign language instruction at primary and intermediate level- hell, it’s hard enough meeting the legal requirements for Maori language instruction at that level (Maori language and culture is compulsory for all primary school students).

    Not having lived in New Zealand for well over 5 years- and that last stint was only 6 months, it’s hard for me to comment on the current situation, but I would say the push for Chinese is only just starting, whereas Japanese has been big since the mid- to late-80s. The FTA recently signed between NZ and China guarantees visas for over 1000 workers in fields including Chinese language teaching, wushu coaching, TCM doctors and Chinese chefs, so hopefully once that is ratified we’ll see a sharper rise in Chinese learning at primary and secondary levels.

  2. Pingback: Pinyin news » Mandarin classes in Australia: ‘Chinese teaching Chinese to Chinese’

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