On Saturday 29 October the VSL held a historic function to launch new Chin Hakha VCE Textbooks for Year 11 and Year 12. At the same time there was a presentation of awards to the inaugural Chin Hakha Year 12 students from the Croydon and Sunshine VSL Centres. The launch was held at the Croydon Road campus of Melba College which hosts a VSL Centre.
This was one of the most important VSL functions of the past decade and a world first. The settlers from Myanmar are relatively new arrivals to Victoria and Australia and they have come from refugee camps in Thailand and Malaysia. Some of the community have spent many years in these camps. In addition, they were not able to study the language formally in their country of origin. (Chin Hakha is only taught to lower primary levels in Myanmar). They are absolutely delighted that in Victoria classes for their language were taught and funded by an official arm of a Government’s Department of Education.
The joint collaboration between the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, the Victorian School of Languages and the Chin Hakha Community has culminated in Chin Hakha being formally taught to Year 12 level. 2016 has seen the first Year 12 Chin Hakha graduation. This accomplishment is a world first.
According to the VSL principal, Mr Frank Merlino, there has long been a demand to increase the number of languages and classes in the Croydon area. “The VSL is delighted to assist emerging communities to forge partnerships with educational bodies in order to assist with language delivery for their community. This leads to a wider language curriculum choice for primary and secondary students from the government, Catholic and Independent school sectors” he said.
World renowned Professor Joseph Lo Bianco addressed the invited guests, parents and students on the global importance of language learning, the integration of immigrant children into mainstream schools and multiculturalism. He is Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Melbourne and has extensive experience in global language policy development. He has been visiting Myanmar for the past seven years to work with the authorities on language planning including a UNESCO project to include minority languages in mainstream education.
Mr Terrance Bennett, the Principal of Melba College spoke of the great partnership between his school and the Victorian School of Languages where there are now 19 VSL classes. Mr Bennett said that, “in a global society, the study of languages helps promote global understanding; social cohesiveness and can significantly enhance students prospects in the future.” Melba College is keen to promote the study of languages in the Maroondah area in partnership with the VSL.
The launch was done by Mr Shaun Leane representing the Premier. He praised the initiative and thanked a variety of people who had assisted in the achievement of this milestone. This included the author, Mr Lian Ding Hmung, the first cohort of students, the Victorian Department of Education, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, VSL teachers and administrative staff, the Chin Hakha language panel and community members.
Mr Lian Ding Hmung who is both the Chairperson of the Australian Chin Community and the writer of the two VCE textbooks spoke about the project. The final speaker was Mr Salai Bawi Lian Mang who is the Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation and is based in the United States.
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority had a large delegation composed of the John Firth (CEO), Maree Dellora (Manager of Languages), Gabriella Bertolissi and Xenophon Arthanidis. There were representatives from neighbouring schools including Christina Shaw (Principal of Yarra Hills SC), Alex Perry from the Blackburn English Language School and obviously from Melba College. Representing the VSL administration were Antonella Cicero, Joanne Lepore, Kevin Ryan, Pashalia Eglezos, Belinda Borkowski and Frank Merlino. Also in attendance were the VSL School Council President, Dr Bruno Maschitelli, Andrew Hay from Independent Schools Victoria and a number of senior representatives from Burmese community organisations.
After the speeches there were three student performances by students from the Mizo, Karen and Chin Hakha classes. The function concluded by the awarding of Certificates to the first ever cohort of Year 12 students.
The VSL taught the language at the Year 12 VCE this year to 29 students from the Croydon Centre and seven from the Sunshine Centre.
Congratulations to the graduating students, and Mr Lian Ding Hmung, author of the textbooks.