Letter From The Hon. Dr David Kemp MP

 

The Hon. Dr David Kemp MP

Minister for Education,

Training and Youth Affairs


Dr Penny McKay
President
Australian Council of TESOL Associations
Cl- 10 Orpen Street
GREENSLOPES QLD 4120

Dear Dr McKay

On 16 May 2000 you wrote to my colleague the Treasurer. the Hon Peter Costello MP, concerning the Government's decision to abolish the Advanced English for Migrants Programme (AEMP). Your letter has been referred to me as Minister for Education. Training and Youth Affairs.

In the 2000-200 1 Budget, the Government announced its intention to cease provision of the AEMP as a separate programme funded through a Specific Purpose Payment to the States and Territories and to provide this assistance in future as part of a new language, literacy and numeracy programme. At the same time, I announced the Governments commitment of $138.7 million over four years for this new programme.

Poor language, literacy and numeracy skills are a major barrier to employment or participation in further education and training for many people. The provision of training aimed at leading to a measurable increase in language. literacy and numeracv skills puts people in a better position to either pursue further education or compete effectively for employment. It will also substantially improve their daily lives and allow them to participate more fully in the Australian community.

I agree that the AEMP has been a well targeted successful and acclaimed programme There is certainly no intention on the part of the Government in making the announced changes to cease provision of this worthwhile training. It will continue to be provided, but as part of a bigger more flexible and integrated new programme.

Funding for the AEMP has been provided through a relatively fixed annual allocation to the States and Territories each year. For each calendar year, the total funds available are allocated between the States and Territories with reference to the Other Than Mainly English Speaking Countries population shares identified in the Australian Bureau of Statistics census figures. This arrangement does not provide an opportunity to vary funding to reflect the difference in demand for AEMP places in each State and Territory. In some States, the programme is oversubscribed and there is a waiting list for places.

In addition, not all migrants make sufficient progress with their English language skills with the 510 hours of training allocated under the Adult Migrant English Programme funded by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, to be able to access the AEMP. Participants in the AEMP are required to have a certain level of English language proficiency and those people who still have basic English language needs are not currently catered for by the AEMP or by the Literacy and Numeracy Programme. A number of people with basic English language needs have been seeking to access the Literacy and Numeracy Programme, which is not designed to provide English as a Second Language training.

The new language, literacy and numeracy programme will draw on the best features of the two existing programmes: the AEMP and the Literacy and Numeracy Programme. It will provide more flexible and integrated assistance for job seekers. The new programme is expected to include four streams of training: basic English language; advanced English language; literacy; and numeracy.

Those currently catered for the AEMP will be able to access the advanced English stream, which is likely to be delivered by many of the experienced AEMP providers. Those whose English language skills are not sufficiently well developed to access AEMP will be able to participate in the basic English stream. Current clients of the Literacy and Numeracy Programme will be able to access the literacy and numeracy streams. People will be able to access the different streams sequentially, where they need to do so.

While the AEMP and the Literacy and Numeracy Programme in their current forms will not continue past 2001, it is anticipated that all job seekers previously eligible for these two programmes will be eligible for one of the streams of training offered under the new programme. The new programme will be available from the beginning of 2002 and participants will not be disrupted in any way by the changes.

I agree that the needs of AEMP participants differ from those of Literacy and Numeracy Programme participants and there is no intention to place the two groups into the same class or training environment. Towards the end of 2001, following an extensive consultation processes with all stakeholders, an Australia-wide competitive tender will be carried out to select providers for each of the four streams of training. -

English language providers who are successful under the tender for the new programme are likely to provide the ‘extras' that current AEMP providers pass onto participants, such as cultural values and knowledge, body language, idiom and nuances and information about accepted norms of communication in Australian society. They can also be expected to provide the support services needed by people settling in a new country, often following a period of trauma in their country of origin.

For the reasons set out above, I believe that those AEMP teachers who are highly skilled in the area of cross-cultural education will be sought after for their expertise to teach clients under the advanced English language stream of the new programme. I do not consider that they will be a casualty of the change. It is important to remember that while the two separate programmes will no longer exist they will, in effect, continue as elements of the new programme.

I believe it is likely that successful providers under the new programme will use very different teaching methods and environments for each of the different streams of training. Of course, there will be some similarities, but the needs of the different groups will be able to be catered for under the new programme.

Currently both the AEMP and the Literacy and Numeracy Programme are available as Mutual Obligation options and the new programme will also be available as a Mutual Obligation option.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of the Government. I am fully confident that the new programme will be effective in meeting the particular needs of skilled migrants and refugees.

Yours sincerely

David Kemp MP
Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs

 

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