Fears are growing in that ESL programs are likely to close leading to a loss of jobs for ESL teachers but also increased difficulties for immigrant and refugee students who will not have the opportunity to learn English.
Proposed budget changes in NSW, Australia are likely to leave schools without funding for ESL. Academics and representatives are up in arms but the government seems unlikely to budge on this issue.
Since 1969 the government of New South Wales has targeted funding towards ESL programs. However they have just revealed plans to change the way ESL is funded and make it part of the general budget which will be handled by school principals.
Thus it will be the individual schools who will determine where the money is spent and there are fears that ESL will be one of the first disciplines to be cut back.
In a letter to the Education Minister, a group of leading academics wrote that, “These changes are widely being interpreted as the beginning of a dismantling of the system-wide, targeted ESL program support infrastructure developed over the last four decades.”
The Refugee Council of Australia has also written to the minister citing their concerns over the planned changes.
This is not good. We all know that for many people in Australia the idea of immigration is (ironically) an unpleasant one and this is likely to be reflected in the future decisions by principals when it comes to budgeting the resources they have. I can certainly see ESL coming low on the list of priorities for schools where students and parents don’t like the idea of money being spent on recent arrivals in Australia.