Title

The (in)visibility of "language" within Australian educational documentation: Differentiating language from literacy and exploring particular ramifications for a group of "hidden" ESL/D learners

RIS ID

78050

Publication Details

McIntosh, S., O'Hanlon, R. & Angelo, D. (2012). The (in)visibility of "language" within Australian educational documentation: Differentiating language from literacy and exploring particular ramifications for a group of "hidden" ESL/D learners. In C. Gitaski & R. B. Baldauf Jr (Eds.), Future directions in applied linguistics: Local and global perspectives (pp. 447-468). United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Abstract

Languages are a significant aspect of personal, collective and cultural identities. Developing proficiency in any particular language is also essential for learning to be literate in that language. Although these statements may appear obvious, the importance of language (i.e. both Standard Australian English (SAE) and other languages) is often assumed, rather than explicitly acknowledged, in the Australian education system. This can be explained, in part, by Australia's monolingual mindset (Clyne, 2005), but is also due to broad educational discourses that dominate language. The expanding definition of literacy, for example-whilst including a broader set of skills and knowledge than traditional notions of (print) literacy-carries the propensity for language issues to be backgrounded. This paper examines the place given to both literacy and language across a range of both Australian and Queensland-specific educational documents. If language is not made visible within educational discourse, there can be ramifications for students learning English as a Second/Subsequent Language or Dialect (ESL/D), particularly those with complex, less recognised language backgrounds, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who speak contact languages (i.e., creoles and related varieties). As improving Indigenous students' (English) literacy performance is targeted at both national and state levels, it is critical that language be clearly distinguished from literacy, so as to determine their respective roles in student performance. This chapter argues for language to be acknowledged in influential data sets and recommends that it be made distinct within future discussions of literacy in educational documents.

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