Kaye and Hipkins working together on language teaching bill

This is a very good sign from two younger senior politicians – Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is supporting Former education minister Nikki Kaye’s members’ bill – the Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill – to at least the committee stage in Parliament.

NZ Herald:  Ex-education minister Nikki Kaye signs up sitting Minister Chris Hipkins to progress bill for teaching languages

Foreign language learning in primary schools looks likely to become commonplace for Kiwi kids with widespread political support for a private member’s bill promoting second-language teaching from a young age.

Former education minister Nikki Kaye has won the support of current Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Labour caucus, plus the Greens and Act, to progress her bill to select committee.

The bill is also likely to extend the provision of Māori language teaching in schools as well as foreign languages.

The bill requires the Government to set 10 priority languages – likely to include Mandarin, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Pacific languages and possibly Hindi as well as official languages Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

It also requires the Government to resource the provision of those languages in primary and intermediate schools.

Kaye said a number of issues would need to be worked through at select committee.

“These include investing in workforce development to ensure we have the teachers and that adequate time is given for schools to implement this. I realise this could be phased in over a number of years.”

The bill won’t come up for its first reading vote until next year but she has had a commitment in writing from Labour, the Greens and Act that they will support it. New Zealand First is still considering it. Kaye was particularly complimentary about Hipkins.

“He has been incredibly generous and understanding that while there may need to be some changes to the bill in the future, that he is supportive to send it to select committee.”

Hipkins said there was real value in second-language learning.

“Kids who do a second language generally tend to do better in their first language,” he said.

“It is not going to be something that any Government can deliver in three, six or even nine years. It is going to be something we are going to have to work on over a long period of time.”

He said one of the areas of debate would be around the concept of priority languages, the role of Pacific languages, the focus on Asian languages in the context of economic partnerships and the traditional European languages which have taught for a long time.

“I’m not sure whether we should restrict down to a small list of priority languages but the bill gives us an opportunity to have that discussion.”

He welcomed the opportunity to have a discussion about what was taught in schools, including language learning, on a cross-party basis rather than being divided along party lines.

This is a good bill to have put into the Members’ ballot, so good on Kaye for that. Lucky it was drawn.

And it is very good to see the ex-minister and current Minister, from normally opposing parties, working together to get this bill debated and worked over in Parliament. It doesn’t guarantee it will end up passing, but this shows our MPs and parties are capable of working together on policies of common interest.

I would like to see more of this cooperation between the Government and the Opposition – it does happen quite a bit as business as usual in Parliament but usually gets little or no attention.

Holding to account, and even attacking opponents constructively, are important parts of our democratic system, but those actions should be exceptions rather than the norm.

Unfortunately media tend to prefer to report on conflict rather than cooperation, but I think that most voters would prefer to see more working together between all our representatives in Parliament.

This cooperation on Kaye’s language bill is a very good sign.