MP Jenny Mikakos has asked the Victorian Government to include Modern Greek as one of the languages ‘chosen’ to take part in an 18-month pilot program in schools, but the Labor MP has misunderstood how the program works, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Nicholas Kotsiras has told Neos Kosmos.

In a recent speech to the Victorian Parliament, Ms Mikakos expressed her concern at the omission of Modern Greek from languages from the Ministry of Education’s content and language integrated learning program.

Ms Mikakos called on the Ministry to include Modern Greek in the trial, which is currently exploring how LOTE (languages other than English) can be used in primary schools to teach subjects such as science and mathematics.

Minister Kotsiras defended the program’s integrity as a device for encouraging the teaching of LOTE, including Greek, telling Neos Kosmos that Ms Mikakos had misunderstood and misrepresented the program.

“This is playing politics with the Greek language, because she’s got her facts completely and utterly wrong,” said Mr Kotsiras.

“The problem is Ms Mikakos has confused two programs: one is in relation to what is called the ‘immersion’ program and the other is the ‘cluster’ program. The immersion program involves primary school teachers undertaking a special university course so they can go back to their schools to teach subjects in a language other than English.

“This was open to all primary teachers and they were nominated by their own schools. The fact is, that there was a primary school teacher of Modern Greek who took part in the course. Unfortunately, half-way through she pulled out for personal reasons.”

The Minister said that in relation to the cluster program, where a number of schools come together to share resources for the teaching of LOTE, no specification was made by the government as to which languages should be part of any cluster.

“Not one cluster that applied, had Modern Greek in it. So no school offering Greek decided to form a cluster and then put in an application.

“What Ms Mikakos is saying is we must go into the schools and pull them by the ear, and say you must form a cluster.”

Ms Mikakos told Neos Kosmos that an ideal cluster for Modern Greek would be for schools in the Darebbin municipality, an area with a number of schools offering Greek language programs.

“I support whatever the government is doing to support the teaching of LOTE (languages other than English). I want to be constructive and help us achieve real outcomes, but I am disappointed Greek isn’t in the list of languages that are taking part in the trial.”

To date the Victorian government has funded 14 language clusters involving over 100 primary schools across the state. Those schools who came forward to create the clusters, meant that groupings of schools, teaching Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, and Japanese have all benefited so far. Each cluster is managed by a lead school to ensure standards are met and resources are coordinated.

The Minister said that advocacy by parents was key to encouraging children to learn Modern Greek, to raise the profile of Modern Greek within schools, and to encourage schools to create clusters that could take advantage of the program.

“The government is trying its best to provide resources and funding to encourage students to learn Modern Greek, but the Greek community must encourage their children to learn the language.

“I encourage parents to get involved in school councils, lions clubs, rotary clubs,” said Mr Kotsiras.

Ms Mikakos echoed Mr Kotsiras’ views on the need for parents to become advocates for the teaching of Greek in schools.

“These decisions get made by school councils and unless people are involved at that level, to educate parents who aren’t of Greek heritage of the advantage of the language, it will be overlooked.”