CANBERRA, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said here on Saturday that the teachers who teach Chinese languages in various schools in Australia "are making a very valuable contribution to students' lives, both now and in their future endeavors.
In a message to the opening ceremony of the Annual Conference of the Chinese Language Teachers ' Federation of Australia which was held on Saturday in Australian National University, the prime minister said "language education can be of enormous benefit to individual students. It provides them with the skills to better understand and communicate with people from other countries and fosters an appreciation of the cultural diversity of our own country and of the world we live in".
"Students who are learning about the language and culture of China, one of our most important trading partners, will be better equipped in the future to participate in a globally-competitive environment," he said.
Rudd, who studied Chinese language and history in late 1970s at Australian National University, said he realized that language teaching in Australia faces many challenges such as a lack of qualified teachers and the poor retention rate among students.
"For this reason the Government has committed 62.4 million dollars (60 million U.S. dollars) over three years to a National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools initiative to help address these concerns," he added.
More than 150 teachers who teach Chinese in universities, high schools and primary schools have participated in the 14th annual conference of the Chinese Language Teachers' Federation of Australia.