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A Rationale for Indonesian Language and Studies in Australian Education


Picture this: It’s 2030. Indonesia is the fifth-largest economy in the world. Its population is 296 million – more than 10 times the size of Australia’s. It is a regional heavyweight and a global power, and its language is the sixth most spoken in the world.  

But right next door in Australia, our young people don’t speak the language, and they know next to nothing about our neighbouring country.  

We can do better. It’s time we took another look at Indonesia, and what we are teaching young Australians about our neighbour, our region, and ourselves.  

Indonesia is our neighbour and our future. Our two countries are tied together by geography and history. We are shaping a future together through cooperation on trade, security and innovation. 

Indonesia matters to our education and our language skills. Australia has historically been a world leader in teaching Indonesian. But these days, most students don’t continue with the language past primary school, to the point that it is now an ‘at risk’ language in our schools.  

Engaging with our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific is an expectation of the Australian Curriculum. We need to pick up on opportunities to develop our students’ knowledge and understanding of their region through language and other learning areas. 

Indonesia’s creativity and cultures have a lot to share. Young people make up more than half of Indonesia’s population. Their dynamic creativity in technological innovation and the arts is reshaping the country and the region, offering opportunities for inspiration and collaboration with young Australians. 

Indonesia’s environment and sustainability are tied to our own. Australia and Indonesia share concerns of caring for our environment while meeting responsibilities on climate change and sustainable development. Our young people are passionate advocates for a sustainable future – with the right connections, they can make a difference for our region and our world. 

Building knowledge of Indonesia and an ongoing friendship with our neighbour into the next generation starts at school. 

Let’s picture a better future for Australia and Indonesia.  

One where our young people know each other, and have a deeper understanding about who – and where – they are.  

There is so much we can learn and do together – teaching Indonesian and studies of Indonesia in our schools is just the beginning.

This rationale aims to provide Australian schools with a compelling reason why knowing Indonesia matters. It helps us achieve Australia’s national education goals and strengthens intercultural learning for young people in our part of the world.

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The rationale was developed by Asia Education Foundation at Asialink, The University of Melbourne with support from the Australia Indonesia Institute, Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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