While the world has become increasingly globalised in recent decades, the number of Year 12 students studying a second language has been steadily declining - from 40% in the 1960s to only 12% today.
On the back of these statistics, the Federal Government last year announced a trial to boost language studies by having children in 40 preschools taught a second language. Under the $9.8 million trial, children are taught one of five languages – Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian, Arabic or French – using games and interactive apps. The trial is forming part of a wider push by the government to promote languages in schools.
In January 2016 the Government also floated the idea of rolling the program out nationally. Education Minister Simon Birmingham said teaching children languages was important for the country. "It's essential to Australia's place in the world to give them the best foundation of language skills, especially the languages of the region including Indonesian and Chinese," he said.
The most common six languages currently studied in Australian schools are – Japanese, Italian, Indonesian, French, German and Mandarin. While statistics show that Chinese and Spanish are the most commonly spoken languages in the world, respectively, with English coming in third.
Research has also shown that the cognitive and neurological benefits of bilingualism extend from early childhood to old age, as the brain more efficiently processes information and slows down cognitive decline.