A brief look at the Vietnamese bilingual program at FPS since 2016

History
Vietnamese language education began at Footscray Primary School as a mother-tongue maintenance program in 1985. It transitioned to a bilingual program in 1997. The program has won a High Commendation in the National Literacy and Numeracy Week Awards in 2007 and the 2008 Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in Education. No other Victorian bilingual school has changed its foundational bilingual language.

Maribyrnong LGA Census 2016
Language spoken at home
Italian 1.8%
Vietnamese 11.9%

Victorian LOTE schools (1518 total)
Italian 246 (16.2%)
Vietnamese 10 (0.01%)

There is also one Italian bilingual school in Victoria (Brunswick South Primary School), and this is the only Vietnamese bilingual school program.

Best practice model
Since 2017 the school has failed to adopt best practice models for the Vietnamese bilingual program. Examples include:
• Starting bilingual education from Grade 2. This hampers proficiency development and impacts on student engagement and behaviour.
• No Vietnamese teacher was appointed in a substantive leadership position, as common to other bilingual schools.
• 30/70 model was chosen rather than 50/50.
• No long term strategic vision or frameworks regarding bilingual education.

Since 2016 the school has employed 12 Vietnamese teachers but lost 8. Past teachers have cited intimidation and lack of support from previous administration’s as cause for leaving.

The problem with staff retention led to an Independent School Review Report.

However, the school did not have access to the Independent School Review Report conducted in early 2019 to understand its recent failures, including the bilingual program.

We understand that there was a lack of Department of Education oversight into the Vietnamese bilingual program for over 8 years.

Community Partnerships
Since 2016 the school has not forged partnerships with community organisations, groups, universities or native speaking networks. These partnerships are an integral component to successful Victorian bilingual schools and offer strong links for recruitment efforts. Possible partnership examples include the Vietnamese Community Australia (Vic), Victorian Vietnamese Teachers Association, Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, Quang Minh Temple, Truong Vinh Ky Vietnamese Language School, Vietnamese Students’ Association, Footscray Asian Traders Association.

Teacher recruitment
Bilingual schools hire from multiple sources, including LOTE teacher pool, consulate partnerships, native speaking networks and University graduate pools. However, currently there is no data to indicate recruitment sources for bilingual schools in Victoria. The decision to end Vietnamese bilingual without this data is one-dimensional and simplistic.

For 2021 the school will adopt a sustainable 50/50 model starting from Foundation level. This will require the school to hire one new ‘bilingual’ teacher per year.

Since 2016 the school has not contacted the Vietnamese Community Australia (VIC) or the Victorian Vietnamese Teachers Association to assist with teacher recruitment.

Consultation
No consultation with the current school community, Vietnamese community or broader community groups were conducted prior to the school’s decision to end the Vietnamese bilingual program in April 2020. Further, consultation with past Vietnamese language teachers to re-build the program was not explored. There has also been no communication with the organisers of the petition.

COVID19
The decision in April to end Vietnamese bilingual occurred during the start of COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the school’s newsletter announcement through the Compass online portal many school families did not learn of the decision until months later. It is understandable that this may be the case, particularly as families grapple with changing work and social environments.

Vietnamese LOTE
If Italian is adopted for the bilingual target language in 2021, the school cannot guarantee Vietnamese LOTE will not be phased out.

We’re a group of parents who want to save the Vietnamese bilingual program at Footscray Primary School