The loss of the only Vietnamese bilingual program

The decision to terminate the program was made in April this year in a closed meeting, when the new administration was barely one school-term into its role. It was also the start of COVID-19 lockdown, when parents and community members were struggling to adapt to the pandemic

If a second Italian bilingual school is to be established, why should it come at the expense of the only Vietnamese bilingual program, located at the heart of the Vietnamese community in Victoria?

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Jorge Andres Jorquera

Why i support the fight to save the Vietnamese bilingual program at Footscray PS

This has been a long battle, and not simply an issue faced by current students, families and teachers at FPS. There was always a conversation about the bilingual program. Those who supported it and those who didn’t. When our eldest son started at FPS in 2006, there were one or two children in his prep class of 23 who spoke only English at home. Things are different now, and like all schools in the area, FPS has been changed by gentrification and the demands on schools from parents with different expectations.

When I was a school councillor and Council President at Footscray Primary I was an active supporter of both the Vietnamese bilingual program and the IB Primary Years Program (PYP). Not because these both added to the prestige and marketing capacity of the school, but because they combined to affect a richer and more meaningful education. Of course many elite schools have very good language programs, based on the wealth of school resources available to them, and built on the back of the social and cultural capital of wealthier families. I also know that the proposal for an Italian bilingual program at FPS (to replace the Vietnamese bilingual program) has been well researched and could prove a good language program.

However, the success of the Vietnamese Bilingual program and PYP at FPS came from students - and teachers and families - Being part of a community building experience, and Not just a language program


There is no richer learning environment than one based on community partnerships, where children, families and teachers are challenged to engage in culturally and socially diverse contexts and assist each other in growing as people and as life-long learners.

I have seen this as both a parent and primary school teacher. But I also see it as a university educator. The communication, critical thinking and leadership skills (or “soft skills”) that are so prized by universities and employers are exactly those that are best built in learning environments that are not cookie-cutter and based on narrow academic measures.

I realise that saving the Vietnamese Bilingual Program requires an effort that many teachers and families probably think is too difficult or impossible. For sure, there are massively less resources available in the education system itself, to provide a language program in Vietnamese. Not surprising, given that our education system remains overwhelmingly colonialist and racist, and languages other than European ones have a secondary status, seen not as “world languages” but rather “community languages”- good to bring out for festivals but not really something our children need to learn. But there are countless examples - especially overseas - of schools uniting with their local communities to take on such challenges, and drive massive improvements in educational outcomes. Why can’t the language expertise and cultural contributions of the local Vietnamese community be enlisted? Vietnamese remains Footscray’s most commonly spoken language at home other than English, and Vietnamese is more popular than Italian at senior secondary level statewide.

I think as a community we are being asked a question that goes to the heart of what we want to define us going forward: Do we want our community to be a truly shared cultural place, or are we happy enough just to be known for our ethnic restaurants?

I support the Vietnamese bilingual program because I strongly believe that we need to fight for schools on Maribyrnong that are built on cultural diversity, communication and exchange. I want to see our local schools modelled on bringing families from different cultural and social backgrounds together in a rich learning playground

Jorge Andres Jorquera 

News update

SUPPORT A VIETNAMESE BILINGUAL PRIMARY SCHOOL PROGRAM IN THE WEST! Next week I will be moving a motion on Maribyrnong Council in support of a Vietnamese bilingual primary school program in the West. As part of this campaign, we have also sent a PUBLIC LE...

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Housing a sense of self: for migrant communities, bilingual school programs are about more than learning

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Footscray Primary School's decision to change its bilingual teaching from Vietnamese to Italian has parents and teachers grappling with what a bilingual program needs to be successful.

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Footscray Primary School (FPS) and the Victorian Department of Education (DET) should reconsider the termination of the last Vietnamese bilingual program in Australia as it would be a great disservice to the students of Footscray Primary School and commun...

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“Many Vietnamese had been considered not good enough as teachers,” says Chau Cong, who left the school in 2018 after 15 years running the program. “That was the reason many left. They weren’t valued.”

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