The signing of the first major submarine contract between France and Australia in Canberra today coincides with the start of a French language conference at Flinders University.
Federal Education and Training Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham, congratulated the federal and South Australian French teachers’ associations for promoting bilingual and binational education – particularly in light of the signoff on the first contract for the $50 billion Future Submarine Program.
The submarine-building contract with French naval defence company DCNS promises to bring new industry and job opportunities to SA in coming years. After five years of design, the first subs are expected to enter service in the early 2030s.
The three-day Federation of Associations of Teachers of French in Australia (FATFA) event was officially opened by the Ambassador of France to Australia Mr Christophe Lecourtier, who acknowledged the strong commitment to bilateral cooperation between the countries.
At the conference opening, Senator Birmingham emphasised the value of learning a second language at any age, adding it supported overseas study and employment opportunities for students – including via the Federal Government New Colombo and Endeavour student mobility plan programs.
Despite a decline in second-language studies, French continues to lead enrolments for foreign languages taught in Australia, with about 250,000 primary and secondary students, 8,000 tertiary and 1,000 adults learning the language via the Alliance Francaise network.
Hosted by Flinders University, the biennial conference of the FATFA, in conjunction with the yearly SA French Teachers Association (SAFTA), will run until Sunday.
The French Synergies conference aims to facilitate exchange of perspectives on French studies between states and territories to promote language skills and to support educational, business and community partners in linguistic and cultural exchanges.
French language has been taught at Flinders University since its foundation 50 years ago. The University’s French discipline has built a high reputation for research-based teaching in areas as diverse as second-language acquisition, linguistics, migration studies and youth literature. A majority of current teachers of French are Flinders alumni.
Flinders Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said Flinders offers a number of courses to build engagement with France, including undergraduate and postgraduate language and teaching courses, cultural awareness and business etiquette. Flinders University is also engaging with the Australian Submarine Corporation to deliver executive training in French culture and language.
“These various initiatives provide brilliant opportunities to develop greater linguistic and cultural links between France and Australian partners in very real and tangible ways,” Professor Stirling said.
“I trust these bridges that we can build upon and our relationship not only from within the University but the City of Adelaide, the State of South Australia and of course across the nation.”
He said the aims of this conference align with the University’s aims of valuing high-quality teaching, building supportive communities through engagement with education, business and community, and also strengthening global ties by maximising opportunities for cultural and linguistic exchanges between French-speaking countries and Australia.”
Flinders is also building connections with France by joining the ‘Creative France’ consortium launched in South Australia in March 2016, running successful cotutelle relationships with France, and developing valuable direct links with French universities, including:
- The Faculty of Science and Engineering welcoming a group of students from the National Institute of Applied Science of Lyon each semester since 2005 to undertake projects in Adelaide.
- The Business School hosting a flow of students inbound and outbound with the Catholic University of Lyon, to study finance, marketing, law and strategy.
- The areas of French culture, language and International Relations building long-lasting links with the University of Avignon, Grenoble Institute of Political Studies and more recently the University of Francais Rabalais Tours.
Conference convenor Flinders University senior lecturer Dr Colette Mrowa-Hopkins said along with the submarine contract, the new reception-Year 12 French language program in SA presented an “unprecedented opportunity to developer greater connections between French and Australian partners in tangible ways over many years”.
From next year, Reception students at Highgate Primary School’s voluntary French stream will be taught 80 per cent of their lessons in the European language, while Year 7s interested in moving into Unley High School’s special language stream will have daily French lessons.
The following year, Unley High will have a bilingual class in both Year 8 and 9. A complete R-12 French program across the two schools will be in place by 2022 as participating students progress through the year levels.