Prof John Hajek
University of Melbourne

In a remarkable achievement, Australia is reported to have the largest number of learners of Italian in the world (283,961 school students) as noted in the recent Italian government report, L’italiano nel mondo che cambia (2019). However, even more notable is the fact that a majority (163,143 or 57.5%) of those Australian students are concentrated in Victoria’s primary and secondary schools. Victoria’s global success in Italian language education is something that should be recognised, celebrated and understood. Such an outcome is the result of decades-long work on the part of the Italian community, Italian government, State and federal governments as well as specific school sectors and organizations such as COASIT, DAS and VATI. However, it is also not something however we can rest our laurels on – especially when the languages education field is so fluid and changeable. The teaching of Italian faces a number of challenges, such as competition from other languages, the impact of the COVID pandemic on language teaching as well as other factors.

In this presentation we talk about Italian in Victorian schools, and compare it with other languages to show there is also considerable risk for it, despite the evident successes. We also consider, based on recent research, the impact of student experience, school support, attrition in upper secondary schools and other critical factors and trends. We also discuss potential practical solutions for inside and outside the classroom that could bolster the teaching and learning of Italian in this state, in order to keep it the jewel in Victoria’s crown.