A researcher developing a national strategic plan for the future of Indonesian language teaching in Australian universities visited Armidale last week to investigate an innovative language-teaching model developed at the University of New England.
“I’m conscious that UNE has a long and respected history in scholarship on Asia,” said David Hill, Professor of South-East Asian Studies at Murdoch University, “and that it has put a lot of effort into teaching Asian languages – particularly in the distance mode.”
“I wanted to hear more about the ‘UNE blended model’ of language teaching,” Professor Hill said. This model combines distance education – much of it online – delivered from the University’s Armidale campus with face-to-face tuition at the point of delivery. It is used in UNE’s delivery of its language programs to several other universities – including Indonesian to students at the University of Southern Queensland and the University of Wollongong.
Under a National Teaching Fellowship awarded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Professor Hill is visiting every Indonesian-teaching university in Australia, as well as language teachers’ associations and government Departments of Education, in a consultative process aimed at forming a coordinated strategic plan for the reinvigoration of Indonesian language learning throughout Australia. “This is not a commissioned report,” he said. “It emerged from within the teaching institutions themselves. But we’re hoping that the Minister for Education will pay attention to it.”
“Due to dispersed student populations and geographical challenges, regional universities are often the birthplaces of innovative models of program delivery,” Professor Hill said. “The provision of Indonesian language programs to other universities that might not have the staff and facilities to provide such programs themselves is an interesting model.
“UNE’s development of this model is a reminder of the benefit of having Indonesian at regional universities. It’s important for government to remember that language skills are not the exclusive preserve of the metropolitan elite.”
Professor Hill also learnt more about UNE’s leadership of the Commonwealth-funded Regional Universities’ Indonesian Language Initiative (RUILI), which has enabled four universities – UNE, the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Tasmania, and Charles Darwin University – to develop and deliver Indonesian language programs based on common curricula.
He explained that languages in general were in a relatively “weak” position when it came to decision making within universities. “I’m aiming to develop structural models of Indonesian teaching – models that find a place for Indonesian teaching in the organisational structures of institutions,” he said. “I’d like to see Indonesian available to every Australian university student.
“My message to students would be that learning Indonesian enhances your career prospects in Australia.”
“The dynamism of the Indonesian economy is not appreciated in Australia,” Professor Hill said. “That dynamism is based in the provincial economies, and the provincial governments are looking overseas for models of regional development. Rather than talking in a hotel in Jakarta through an interpreter, our business people need to be able to go out into regional Indonesia and have productive discussions with the provincial governments. We’re not producing enough graduates in Indonesian.”
Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph of Professor David Hill (right) with UNE’s Convener of Indonesian, Dr Zifirdaus Adnan.