Community languages is set to be a hot issue in the upcoming state election, with both major parties announcing policies for LOTE and community language schools.

LOTE is now an extra for them, it’s like when you purchase a car you have to pay something more to get the extra, whereas it should be part of the curriculum.

The Liberal Party announced they would make LOTE compulsory at government schools, and added funding in community language programs, while the ALP announced $4.7 million for four new bilingual secondary schools.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Bronwyn Pike told Neos Kosmos the announcement builds on the investment in last month’s Victorian Languages Strategy, which committed $3 million to learning languages in schools as part of a 10-year-plan.

“The Brumby Labor Government provide $60 million to our Government schools every year for languages education because we understand it unlocks important personal and career opportunities for Victorian students,” he said.

But the government’s Victorian Languages Strategy shows the number of students studying a LOTE in Victoria dropped from 91.3 per cent in 2002, to 75.5 per cent in 2008.

Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Nick Kotsiris, said these figures showed the government had failed.

“LOTE is now an extra for them,” he said.

“It’s like when you purchase a car you have to pay something more to get the extra, whereas it should be part of the curriculum.

“It should be part of what kids are learning.”

The Liberal Party announced almost $39.7 million investment over four years, to go to teacher scholarships and increased funding for community language schools.

University of Melbourne linguistics Professor John Hajek, who has been the chief investigator on several LOTE reports for the education department, said it was great both major parties are trying to address the decline in LOTE.

“Language learning is seriously under-funded,” he said.

He welcomed the Liberals’ plan to make LOTE compulsory, but said it must be properly resourced, adding that one of the biggest problems was a lack of teachers.

Prof Hajek said governments should support more bilingual schools, such as Lalor North Primary School, as they have “quite amazing” successes.

Head of Community Languages Australia, Stefan Romani, welcomed the bipartisan support for community language schools.

“The most critical thing is that we have a range of providers,” he said.