Northern Territory’s relative success in Indonesian language report

June 27, 2012

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A detailed national report by Murdoch University’s Professor of Southeast Asian Studies has revealed that a Darwin university’s Indonesian language program has been among the country’s most successful.

The Federal Government-funded review by Professor David Hill from Murdoch’s School of Social Science and Humanities found that between 2001 and 2010 there was a fall of 37 per cent in enrolments in Indonesian in Australian universities nationally.

But at Charles Darwin University enrolments declined by only five per cent. Although the lowest decline of any state or territory, the Northern Territory’s fall is still of major concern, as the overall enrolment is worryingly low, said Prof Hill.

With a population of 240 million, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy, fourth most populous nation, and home to a rapidly expanding middle-class. Its economy is currently growing by more than 6 per cent per annum, with the IMF projecting its nominal GDP growth rate (2009-15) to be 15.4 per cent, which is higher than the forecasts for Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Dr Richard Curtis, Coordinator of Indonesian language at Charles Darwin Uuniversity (CDU), said: “We’ve worked very hard to develop quality external units so students can study Indonesian at a distance, coupled with enriching in-country study options.

“With the support of the Australia-Indonesia Institute, we are also piloting a major initiative with Nusa Cendana University in Kupang so Australian and Indonesian students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds can together study each others’ language and discuss ideas on-line. Employing social media, such as web conferencing, students develop intercultural skills and obtain valuable real-time listening-speaking practise through authentic interactions.”

Unfortunately, however, the number of on-campus CDU students undertaking Indonesian language has dwindled dramatically. Ironically, this contrasts with a strong surge in strategic collaborative teaching and research activity between CDU and partner universities in Indonesia.

The Hill report, Indonesian Language in Australian Universities: Strategies for a stronger future, made 20 recommendations for government and the universities to build Australia’s Indonesian language capability.

Professor Hill encouraged universities such as CDU to “include a language bonus for tertiary entrance scores, promote language studies within or alongside any main degree, and consider offering a HECS exemption for language units”.

To strengthen Indonesian programs, the Hill Report urged universities to offer a ‘language entitlement’ for all students across disciplines, promoting languages as a valid and important component of any degree, discipline or profession.

The report was also submitted to the Henry Review on Australia in the Asian Century.

For an executive summary and full copy of the Hill Report click here.

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