IN THE NEWS – The use of interpreters to translate parent-teacher interviews, student enrolment meetings and information nights is on the rise across the state.
Schools are employing thousands of interpreters to translate parent-teacher interviews. The number of contractors employed to interpret for parents in schools has exploded by 40 per cent in just five years.
Data from LanguageLoop, the Department of Education’s contracted service, shows the government employed interpreters for more than 15,500 jobs at schools last year alone — up 12 per cent on the year before. That figure jumped from just over 11,000 school interpreting jobs five years earlier, in 2014.
The free service for public schools are used for parent-teacher interviews, kinder to prep transition, student enrolment meetings and information nights.
The schools with the greatest demand last year were Dandenong High, with almost 900 assignments, followed by Blackburn English Language School then Noble Park English Language School. While language schools were among those most in need, there was also high demand for services at campuses in growth areas, including for St Albans Secondary, Mount Ridley P-12 College, Hoppers Crossing Secondary and St Albans Primary.
The most popular languages were Arabic and Vietnamese, followed by Mandarin. Vietnamese interpreter John Doan works for LanguageLoop in schools in the western suburbs and the city, at primary and secondary campuses. He believed the rise was “not only because of the population, also because more people realise they can be an asset”. “Majority of them are for parent-teacher interviews, but there’s information sessions with parents to talk about abuse on the internet,” he said. “Before, they take a very passive role — now, they want to know what their kids are doing.”
In Victoria’s north east, Mandarin was the most popular language, while in the north west it was Arabic. Dari was the most popular in the south east with demand highest for Vietnamese in the south west.
LanguageLoop chief executive Liz Compton said in generations past, it was usually the children who interpreted at meetings with their parents. “Parents are wanting to be more engaged in their child’s schooling,” she said. “You can imagine it would be incredibly isolating if you didn’t have that connection with your child’s school, so we’re here to bridge the gap.”
A Department of Education spokeswoman said schools had access to language services “to ensure that all families, including those who don’t speak English as a first language, can fully understand information about their child’s education and communicate effectively with school staff”. “Interpreting and translating services are available free to government schools for certain activities through the Department’s provider, LanguageLoop.”
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6 October 2019