Victoria is renowned for its thriving Greek population, which one would think would be reflected in the number of students enrolled in VCE Modern Greek. But it is not the case, and hasn’t been for some time now.
“Families with Greek background have a major responsibility for the sad levels of VCE Greek today.”
According to figures obtained by Neos Kosmos, across Victoria just 274 students are currently enrolled in the language at VCE level – the same number as in 2014, and two less than in 2013.
The total number of Greek learners pale in comparison to Mandarin, with 3,274 of the 9,952 students sitting a VCE language oral exam in 2015 enrolled, followed by French, Japanese and Italian. Modern Greek lags behind in eighth place.
Low numbers have been a cause for concern for the past decade, with enrolments in Modern Greek units decreasing from 393 in 2005 to 258 in 2009.
Sydney University professor of Modern Greek Vrasidas Karalis says the trends behind the issue are complex.
“There isn’t a single answer to explain the reduction of the number of students enrolled in Greek at secondary level,” says Professor Karalis, who believes second generation Greeks are more concerned with pursuing tertiary study directly related to career development.
“For them, getting a cultural education by training their language at a university level obviously wasn’t a priority.
“From now on we need better coordination, common teaching materials and a pedagogic system at Greek schools.”
Karalis proposes further implementing technological resources may be the answer, and says wider community involvement and support is crucial.
“Universities should offer scholarships for those kids interested to continue Greek at a tertiary level, as well as postgraduate scholarships to adults,” he says.
“The utilisation of the Greek Australian community’s precious archives and the creation of networks with researchers, within and outside of higher education, could give an extra push to the Greek language.”
Coordinator of Greek Language Education in Victoria, Dr Anastasios Tamis believes families play a big role in the decline of enrolments.
He says some 40 per cent of students, the majority of whom are of Greek background, begin school without having engaged with Greek in their early years.
“It’s obvious that families with Greek background have a major responsibility for the sad levels of VCE Greek today,” says Dr Tamis.
“Today Greek educators provide too much material to students. In most cases they can’t comprehend what they are studying,” he adds, suggesting that many schools expect students to learn by rote grammar rules and verb conjugation without fully understanding their meaning.
With an about 10 per cent of students enrolled in Modern Greek at VCE level believed to be recent arrivals from Greece, there is growing concern about the level of testing and advantage held by native speakers.
“Unlike Victoria, other states and territories are running two or three different types of student exams, depending on whether they were born in Australia or in Greece,” says Professor Tamis, proposing the current system should be adjusted to suit the different needs and backgrounds of Modern Greek students.
In Victoria five languages are offered at varying levels to suit student’s fluency, including Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.
Dr Tamis says the state of affairs requires the Modern Greek Teachers’ Association of Victoria, along with the Education Office of the Greek Consulate in Victoria, needs to to step up to close the gap.
A spokesperson from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) told Neos Kosmos that they are aware of the situation and are looking to ensure fairness in assessments for all students by analysing and monitoring exam performance.