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Research on migrant teacher qualifications, mobility and more
We undertake research in community languages education to support teachers, student learning, policy and program development. Explore our research here.


We are working on ways to credit student achievement in learning languages in community-language settings, as well as in primary and secondary schools. This will fill an obvious gap in education settings because there is currently no way to know what level of language any student in any classroom has gained. With funding from the NSW government, we have developed a ‘prototype’ progression for community languages. This has milestones for students in listening, speaking, reading and writing. It also describes the language repertoires that students develop. SICLE is applying for research funding to develop progressions in Arabic, Chinese and other languages. See below for more information.

A follow-up to The Skills in Question report, "Parallel lines: community languages schools and their role in growing languages and building communities" (pdf, 2.1MB) resulted from one of the few in-depth studies ever undertaken into the organisation of community languages schools.

The report explores the organisation, capacity, curriculum and teaching of the 310 community languages schools in NSW.

Based on the responses to an online survey; case studies of selected schools; and interviews with principals, teachers, parents and students; the report of the study concluded there had been dramatic changes in the schools over the past decades. 

There has been a shift from first- to second-, third- and fourth-generation Australian students; the age range of students has broadened from almost exclusively primary-aged pupils to now include early-childhood, secondary and adult students and growing numbers of non-background learners.

Community languages schools ‘make’ communities and act as key cultural centres.

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, as well as the professional-learning needs of the volunteer teachers who staff community languages schools. 

Key findings:

  • community languages teachers have high levels of qualification (60% university level, 20% college level);  
  • 55% have teaching qualifications and experience from overseas and 79% want to become teachers in Australia.  

Key recommendations:

  • community languages schools be recognised as a key provider of languages education in NSW and aligned more with other sectors. Representatives should be included in policy and program planning, especially in the areas of early childhood, primary, secondary and adult education
  • community languages schools, especially smaller schools in lower-SES communities, need proactive support from government.

We have produced a bibliography of research (pdf, 337KB) into community/heritage/complementary language schools covering the past two decades.

The aim is to help students and academics researching this area.

Papers in preparation include a study of tertiary-entry and languages, titled "Community Languages in Australia: ATARRED with the same brush".

One of our key initiatives has been the development of a research base to inform policy and programs for Community Languages schools.

Our team has developed a strong network of researchers across tertiary institutions and educational sectors in NSW.

The Tertiary Working Party has met seven times with 20 to 30 researchers, postgraduate students and policymakers.

Participants present and share their research interests; meetings have resulted in collaborative research projects between universities.

Another key research program is our study of teacher mobility – of teachers with overseas training gaining re-accreditation in Australia.

The project is a joint one with researchers at ACU and WSU and will make a significant contribution to this emerging field of international research.

Researchers have been tracking and interviewing teachers in the community who are deciding on whether or not to requalify as teachers; we have also been tracking teachers in their tertiary programs at WSU and ACU using interviews and surveys.

This has also involved interviewing lecturers in the program on their perceptions of the teachers and the adjustments they have made in their courses for inclusion. SICLE is part of several international networks of researchers in this area.

Upcoming events

Professor Michael George Clyne AM FAHA FASSA, died aged 71 on October 29, 2010, was an Australian linguist, academic and intellectual.

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.

Held annually since 2011, the memorial lecture has been given by a leading academic to honour Professor Clyne's achievements and highlight his areas of research and teaching.

We also run regular online research seminars.

Previous presenters have include Professor Joe Lo Bianco, Professor Mike Baynham, Associate Professor Howard Nicholas and Professor Jim Tognolini.

IMAGE: Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash