Modern Greek in Australia needs to be truly taught and promoted as a Second Language from prep to Year 10, as other languages are. (i.e. Italian, Indonesian, Japanese). Many students may have a Greek background, but most are third and fourth generation migrants and the language may not be known before attending school.
Due to the fact that Modern Greek is a living, community language in cities like Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, there are students with a high proficiency of Greek language acquisition who often attend Greek classes beginning from Year 1, attend after hours schools’ and speak the language in their home. These students need to be enriched and taught as First Language Students, with distinct advanced classes and courses which cater for their needs to accelerate and extend them.
In Victoria, Year 11 and Year 12 Greek is assessed as a “Second Language”. The reality is that only students with a high proficiency in the Greek language and a Greek background can complete and fulfil the requirements of the final examinations (oral and written).
Despite few non Greek background students beginning Greek classes at Year 1 or Year 7, hardly any student survives and can manage the expected language level to sit Greek exams in Year 12 in Victoria. Even though it is called “Second Language” at VCE level, in actual fact the cohort of students are “Advanced Second Language Students” and many are “First Language Students”, and increasingly so. As we speak, due to the ongoing economic crisis in Greece, we are having many new arrivals who are fluent Greek speakers. This also makes it unfair for students who have been born and grown up in Australia, competing with such a high level. Therefore, we need two levels of assessment, call it what you will…
Only in NSW and SA is there a second and third language examination at Year 12. Victoria, where the language seems to be much more alive, does not cater for these specific learning needs of Greek students, nor does it permit students of a non Greek background to study and sit a Year 12 Greek examination (as was done by an Aboriginal background student in NSW in 2012). ACARA needs to ensure that all student needs are met, even though this is only a Victorian issue.
The Greek communities in most capital cities of Australia have a dynamic and rich cultural contribution to make to the teaching and learning of the Greek language. Greek communities, church and regional organizations, as well as private businesses such and HACCI, have much to offer and integrate into Greek teaching programs across the board. Almost every week in Melbourne and certainly in other capital cities, there is an abundance of Greek festivals, concerts, plays, that can be incorporated intto the teaching and learning programs. There are many Greek Australian print and electronic media, satellite TV, radio stations, the internet, with Google and YouTube, Skype, the ERT Archive, which offer so many resources to engage students and enrich existing Greek lessons to become equal to and with mainstream teaching and learning.
There is a wealth of resources form the University of Rethimno, Crete, other Universities in Greece, the Greek Education Department and many on line sites and materials to purchase, that there is never a shortage of teaching resources.
The Education Office of the Greek Consulate in Melbourne (with its limited numbers of teaching staff in recent times) tries to support and enrich Greek teaching programs so as to recharge the enthusiasm and knowledge of local Greek teachers, who often work in isolation.
There is the Modern Greek Teachers’ Association of Victoria as well as similar associations in NSW and SA and perhaps other cities, which need to unite and become one voice to form a Federation and begin working and sharing resources, ideas and a common and long term visions for the promotion of Greek teaching in years to come.
A marketing strategy and the serious promotion of Greek in Government Schools and beyond is needed to increase student enrolments and class availability, as there are many qualified Greek teachers in Government Schools teaching other subjects. School Councils and Principals should become far more supportive of in-school Greek programs.
Student Exchange Programs to and from Greece should be as easily accessible and encouraged by schools as other language student exchanges are.
More Greek teacher and student exchanges should be encouraged and promoted by both the Greek and Australian Governments, to enable enrichment of language and cultural exchanges and immersion to take place.
As a community, we need to share a common vision, engage in regular dialogue, promote and encourage the teaching of Modern, Classical Greek, as well as Classical Studies, to students who have a part, full or no Greek background, so that we can produce more Philhellenes in the Antipodes which we call home, Australia.
* Maria Foscolos is a Greek teacher, Victorian School of Languages Distance Education, 2013. To contact Maria you can email