Schools: Language diversity in NSW, 2018

This bulletin was originally published 29 March 2019.

Image: Schools: Language diversity in NSW, 2018

Overview

CESE’s Schools: Language diversity in NSW, 2018 bulletin summarises the diversity of students with language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) who were enrolled in NSW government schools in March 2018. The census of students from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) was conducted on 9 March 2018 in all NSW government schools, including preschools, intensive English centres and distance education centres.

Summary

Introduction

In March 2018, 64.9 per cent of students who were enrolled in NSW government schools came from homes where English was the only language spoken. More than one third (35.1 per cent) of students came from homes where languages other than English were spoken. The proportion of LBOTE students rose by 0.9 percentage points from 2017 and 2.8 percentage points from 2015.

What are the language backgrounds of our students?

In March 2018, LBOTE students at NSW government schools spoke 239 different languages at home. There were 282,532 NSW government primary and secondary students identified as having a language background other than English, which comprised 35.1 per cent of the 804,946 NSW government school students overall. This was an increase of 10,131 LBOTE students from 2017.

Largest language backgrounds of LBOTE students in NSW government schools

In March 2018 the nine largest languages and language groups represented 68.7 per cent of all LBOTE students. The ‘Indian languages’ category continued to be the largest language group with 51,064 students, representing 18.1 per cent of all LBOTE students. The second most common language background of the LBOTE students was ‘Chinese languages’, with 44,741 students enrolled in 2018. The largest single language of LBOTE students in March 2018 was Arabic (38,629 students), followed by Mandarin (26,569 students) and Vietnamese (16,758 students). Since 2008, the combined ‘Indian languages’ group has more than doubled, from 22,707 students to 51,064 students in 2018. The second largest growth was in Arabic, which has increased 41.8 per cent, followed by Filipino/Tagalog and Samoan growing 26.2 per cent and 25.3 per cent respectively over the same period. Between 2017 and 2018 the number of students from a Chinese language background rose from 43,423 to 44,741. However, due to a greater increase in other language backgrounds, especially Indian languages, the proportion of LBOTE students from a Chinese language background fell slightly from 15.9 per cent in 2017 to 15.8 per cent in 2018. The percentage of students from all other large languages and language groups either remained unchanged or decreased.

Where are LBOTE students in NSW?

Nearly 60 per cent of all LBOTE students were located in Sydney- West, Sydney-South or Sydney-South West. Students from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Dutch and Polish language backgrounds were more likely to be located in Sydney-North, whereas students from Hebrew, Russian and Italian language backgrounds were more likely to be enrolled in schools in Sydney-Inner. Many students from Indian language backgrounds were located in Sydney-West, which had the largest proportions of students from Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu, Malayalam, Sinhalese and Marathi language backgrounds. Sydney-West also had the largest proportion of students from Filipino/Tagalog, Tongan, Turkish, Persian (excluding Dari), Dari, and Maori (Cook Island) language backgrounds. Sydney-South West schools contained almost all students from Assyrian/Chaldean (91.0 per cent), Khmer (82.0 per cent) and Lao (77.4 per cent) language backgrounds. This area also had a significant proportion of the students with Vietnamese (54.2 per cent), Samoan (48.6 per cent), Serbian (48.4 per cent) and Croatian (25.4%) language backgrounds. Sydney-South had the largest proportions of the students from Macedonian (40.7 per cent), Arabic (36.6 per cent), Bengali (27.0 per cent), Nepali (24.8 per cent) and Indonesian (23.4 per cent) language backgrounds, plus almost half of the students in NSW government schools from a Greek background (47.1 per cent).

Concentration of LBOTE students across NSW

The concentration of students from LBOTE backgrounds was greater in the Sydney metropolitan area than in other parts of NSW. Across all Sydney schools 54.5 per cent of the students were from language backgrounds other than English. Students from language backgrounds other than English represented 68.5 per cent of the 87,776 students enrolled at schools in Sydney-West, the highest percentage in NSW. Of these students, the majority had an Indian, Arabic or Chinese language background. On the other hand, in North West NSW, of the over 67,000 enrolments in government schools, only 4.8 per cent were LBOTE students. More than one third of these 3,280 students had a Filipino/Tagalog, Indian or Aboriginal English language background. The only language background with a significant concentration of students outside the Sydney metropolitan area was Macedonian, with 27.2 per cent of these students located in South East NSW.

LBOTE students by level of schooling

Students from Indian language backgrounds comprised 20.5 per cent of the LBOTE primary enrolments, compared with 14.3 per cent of the LBOTE secondary enrolments, which suggests that Indian languages will most likely continue to increase as a proportion of all LBOTE students. The proportion of LBOTE students from an Arabic language background was at 13.4 per cent for primary school students and 14.0 per cent for secondary students. Students from Chinese language backgrounds represented a higher proportion of the LBOTE secondary enrolments (16.8 per cent) compared with the LBOTE primary enrolments (15.3 per cent). Although students from a Vietnamese language background comprised 5.9 per cent of enrolments of all LBOTE students, they represented only 4.9 per cent of primary enrolments compared with 7.6 per cent of secondary enrolments.

Location of LBOTE students by level of schooling

For schools in Sydney-Inner the proportion of LBOTE students as a percentage of enrolments was 16.8 percentage points higher for secondary enrolments than for primary enrolments. In Sydney-North the LBOTE secondary enrolments’ figure was just over 5 percentage points higher than the LBOTE primary enrolments.

LBOTE students Kindergarten to Year 12

When looking at LBOTE students as a percentage of all enrolments, Table 5 shows that in primary grades, the percentage was highest in Kindergarten at 37.1 per cent. The proportion decreased through primary years and was lowest in Year 7 at 32.8 per cent, then increased for senior secondary grades (36.2 per cent in Year 11 and 40.6 per cent in Year 12). This largely reflects historic enrolment patterns, with the proportion of Kindergarten students from language backgrounds other than English rising from 27.9 per cent in 2008 to 37.1 per cent in 2018. In previous years, LBOTE student enrolments represented a higher proportion of all secondary enrolments than of all primary enrolments. However, as Table 5 shows, in 2018 the proportion was the same at 35.1 per cent of all enrolments for both primary and secondary students.

What languages do newly arrived students speak?

The total number of new arrival students in 2017 was 9,167 and they spoke 136 different languages. Arabic was the most common single language, accounting for 15.6 per cent of these students. However, 24.2 per cent of new arrival students spoke an Indian language.

What language backgrounds do preschool students come from?

Government preschools enrolled 2,107 students from language backgrounds other than English in 2018, representing 50.1 per cent of all government preschool enrolments. The proportion of LBOTE children at government preschools is significantly higher than the proportion enrolled at school.

For more information

To access data on NSW government school student attendance, visit the NSW Education Data Hub.
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