Skip to main content
 Group of school children in traditional dress with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Centres and institutes_

Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education

Supporting and researching linguistic diversity in Australia
With effect from Monday, March 16, 2020, SICLE's face-to-face programs for community languages teachers have moved online until further notice.

Our centre aims to support the teaching and learning of community languages by working with teachers to benefit students by building capacity in schools.

About us

Community languages schools have been operating in Australia since the 1850s. In NSW, more than 37,000 young people are learning one of 64 languages taught by 3000 volunteer teachers.

Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education (SICLE) works in three main areas:

  • conducting research to inform policy and evidence-based approaches to teaching languages
  • providing professional learning pathways for teachers in NSW community languages schools
  • developing curriculum materials, resources and assessment to support students learning community languages.

SICLE has a large number of staff, comprising more than 50 part-time lecturers, a part-time filmmaker, curriculum writers, project managers, project officers, student administrators, research assistants.


We provide three 60-hour NESA-accredited professional-learning programs for teachers in NSW government-funded Community Languages Schools. Each program caters for a different level of seniority within the community-school heirachy. More than 3000 teachers have completed at least one program. Many have completed more than one, as their teaching expertise and knowledge have developed. The programs are described below.

This program helps participants become more effective classroom teachers. It introduces the basics of how children learn, as well as covering practical aspects such as lesson planning; teaching listening, speaking, reading and writing; and classroom management. Participants observe classes in primary schools and visit each other's classes. The program also provides an introduction to:

  • the mechanisms by which children learn
  • recent approaches to education
  • teaching approaches suited to students of different ages and abilities
  • how to engage students who have special needs.

The assignments are practical and involve preparing resources and classroom activities. Programs are offered in various venues around Sydney and Wollongong, as well as via mixed mode/online delivery. Language-specific workshops are available in Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Tamil. Teachers are provided with a handbook, handouts and readings for this program and are also shown a wide range of online and video resources. Below, you can find links to a variety of resources used in this program:

Applications for the 2020 intake of this program have closed.

This program helps experienced teachers become curriculum mentors. It has been designed for teachers who have completed the Foundation program or who have teaching qualifications and experience in Australia. The program covers:

  • unit planning
  • assessment
  • using technology
  • advanced teaching skills.

Participants also explore language frameworks and syllabuses for their language (where these exist) and evaluate ways to improve their teaching. The main assessment task involves participants undertaking a mini-research project, which might be planning a unit of work; developing resources; revising/adapting a school program; mentoring new teachers; developing a behaviour-management program for the school; or similar activities. Support material includes a range of video clips.

Applications for the 2020 intake of this program have closed.

This program for principals, school leaders and school management committee members to help them develop more effective schools. It has three strands:

  • people management (finding, employing and mentoring teachers)
  • financial and school management (funding, fees and paperwork)
  • educational leadership (examples include developing programs and policies).

Participants carry out an audit of their school and design ways to improve school management and curriculum.

Applications for 2020 intake of this program have closed.


The institute undertakes a program of research in community languages education to support teachers, student learning, policy and program development. Initiatives including:

This exciting conference will bring together international and Australian researchers at The University of Sydney in November 2021. Keynote speakers will be: Professsor Maria Carreira, co-director of the National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA; Dr Vicky MacLeroy, Head of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Professor Joe Lo Bianco, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Visit the conference website for more information.

Teachers in community languages schools often have years of training and language learning but have no way to accredit their proficiency in their language. If you teach in in NSW government primary schools then you should sit for the Community Language Teacher Test (CLTT) funded by the NSW Department of Education. We are also offering the Verifying Language Proficiency (VLPT) testing for applicants wanting to gain entry to preservice teacher-education programs and for other teachers who want evidence of their language proficiency. For more information about the CLTT or to register your interest in sitting the VLPT, please complete the relevant form below.

UPDATE: In light of COVID-19 developments, please be advised all University events will no longer take place in the short term. Let us know what event you're interested in via our online form, and we'll return to you with an update as the situation changes.

SICLE hosts a regular research seminar series, as well as the annual Michael Clyne Memorial Lecture. Professor Michael George Clyne AM FAHA FASSA, who died aged 71 on October 29, 2010, was an Australian linguist, academic and intellectual. He was a scholar in various fields of linguistics, including sociolinguistics, pragmatics, bilingualism and multilingualism, second-language learning, contact linguistics and intercultural communication. Professor Clyne was a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia; the Australian Academy of the Humanities; and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. Each year since 2011, the memorial lecture now hosted by SICLE has been given by a leading academic to honour Professor Clyne's achievements and highlight his areas of research and teaching.

SICLE's Advisory Committee, guided by Professor Joe Lo Bianco has developed a Draft Languages Education Policy Discussion Paper (pdf, 395kB) for the NSW Government. 

SICLE's groundbreaking report, The Skills in Question (pdf, 763kB), involved survey data from 900 community language teachers, as well as in-depth interviews with 45. It explores the professional learning strengths and needs of the volunteer teachers who staff community languages schools.

A follow-up report, "Developing Languages, Building Communities" explores the organisation, capacity, curriculum and teaching of the 310 Community Languages Schools in NSW. Based on online survey responses, school case studies and interviews with principals, teachers, parents and students, this study highlights the complex and dynamic nature of this school sector. This report will be published online once it has been completed. SICLE has produced a bibliography of recent research internationally into community languages education. Papers in preparation include a study of tertiary entry and languages, titled "Community Languages in Australia: ATARRED with the same brush".

SICLE hosts a tertiary working party comprising researchers from the tertiarty education sector across NSW and ACT. The group meets four times a year to coordinate research efforts into community languages.

SICLE employs bilingual careers advisers who can provide free advice to community languages teachers. Services offered include help in planning career paths, accessing opportunities for further study and gaining credit for overseas qualifications. SICLE's advisers visit schools and meet teachers in different locations around Sydney.

We run free higher-level English classes in writing, speaking and pronunciation for teachers in NSW Community Languages Schools.

We provide subsidies for teachers to sit for the ISLPR English test which is required by NESA to become accredited teachers in NSW schools.

From 2020 we have places in Master of Teaching programs at WSU, ACU and other universities for teachers who have a recognised degree but who need preservice teacher education. We offer subsidies for teachers in government-funded NSW community languages schools. Our study revealed that 60 per cent of teachers in NSW Community Languages Schools have had overseas teacher training and experience but have to undertake additional study if they are to become accredited teachers in Australian primary of secondary schools. This program involves universities running specific programs for these teachers in alternate mode: on weekends, online and school holidays. SICLE will help assess your qualifications, provide careers' advice and English-language support and organise English testing for you where appropriate. If you have an undergraduate degree but not recognised teacher training, this program may be for you.

We are working with principals and schools to collect, categorise, review and upload local, national and international teaching resources for different languages onto online portals. Our survey of the 510 Community Languages Schools in NSW found that having good, up-to-date curriculum resources for Australian students is the most important need across all languages. We started with the main languages – Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Korean and Vietnamese – with project officers collecting all available resources from schools and from other states, overseas and online. These resources are checked for quality and copyright by key teachers in the schools and then uploaded on to online portals. In 2020 we will be scheduling teacher workshops in these languages to familiarise teachers with these resources and develop more. We have begun similar projects now for Japanese, Turkish, Hindi, Tamil, Macedonian, Persian/Dari and Assyrian.

Key teachers are trialling and developing 48 units of work in nine languages for use in Community Languages Schools. Twenty-five key teachers in the NSW government K–6 Community Languages Program are developing units of work in nine community languages: Arabic, Assyrian, Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Macedonian, Tamil, Turkish. The units reflect quality teaching and rich task outcomes aligned with new K–10 languages syllabuses. Teachers had two days of workshops and received in-school support to trial and evaluate these units with their students. Final units will be presented in December 2019 and uploaded on to the curriculum portals.

We are developing scope and sequences and units of work to accompany the new NESA K–10 syllabuses in Hindi, Macedonian, Persian/Dari, Punjabi and Tamil. These units will be bilingual and are available free to volunteer teachers in NSW Community Languages schools.

We are developing a Passport for Languages to accredit student language learning. These will be based on detailed languages progressions and teacher professional learning to use these progressions for student assessment. This project is aiming to develop progressions or scales for community languages that can then be adapted into different versions for community languages. The progressions/scales will be trialled with groups of students in 2020 to gain evidence for validity and reliability. Community languages teachers will be given professional development to be able to assess student work samples. The eventual outcome will be an online Passport for Languages that will be a permanent record of the listening, speaking, reading and writing level attained by each student. This Passport will also include student self-assessment and can be carried across schools and stages of schooling to show evidence of proficiency.

Digital storytelling is being used in Tongan and Khmer schools to engage students with their community language. Students are guided through the process of planning and producing videos on a range of topics. SICLE's Dr Kirsty McGeoch trains the teachers from these schools in a series of workshops learning to use a range of tools and apps in their classes. The project is based on Dr McGeoch's groundbreaking Critical Connections initiative in the UK.  

We have a set of videos about community languages schools that use primary and secondary Department of Education school premises. These clips have interview footage with Department of Education school principals discussing the benefits of hosting community languages schools, how to organise cooperation and address issues that emerge. The videos will soon be available on the NSW Department of Education website.

We are a producing video clips to promote student and parent involvement in community languages schools. In collaboration with Turkish-language schools, we are developing clips of interviews with students, ex-students, parents and others talking about why to learn their community language. These clips will be disseminated through social media.

Our people


Associate Professor Ken Cruickshank

Assistant Director

Michelle McAlinden

Manager, Professional Learning Programs

Emily Bai Li

Manager, Curriculum Projects

Featured news

See more