The retention of year 11/12 Chinese in Australian schools: A relevance theory perspective
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Along with the rise of China, Chinese language education has become increasingly important. However, the tally of students studying Chinese in Australian schools resembles a rollercoaster: until Year 10 it streams upwards, but at Years 11 and 12 it plunges down. Drawing on interviews and focus group discussions with school teachers in Western Australia, this paper investigates the rollercoaster phenomenon through the lens of Relevance Theory. In particular, it explores students' motivations and the priorities of schools and the government, to build a better understanding of the causal factors underpinning the poor retention of students in Year 11/12 Chinese. The findings show that the three major stakeholders- students, school authorities and government - take a relevance-driven and effect/cost-guided approach to language learning, seeking minimum costs and maximum benefits. The implication is that to retain students in their senior years, the optimal relevance of Chinese language education needs to be asserted. This study calls for policies and practices based on Relevance Theory, if Chinese, and other language programmes, are to be successful in the future.
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