New global project will explore the teaching of classical languages in schools


A global interdisciplinary project involving researchers from two Humanities faculties will explore classical language education in Chinese, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit – including its potential to improve learning outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Dr Antonia Ruppel, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Senior Research Fellow in Classics Education in the Faculty of Classics will collaborate with partners in Germany, Thailand, Singapore, China and Australia on ‘The Ancient Today’ project. This project has been funded by the Australian Research Council ($323,407) and will run until 2025.

The project aims to compare pedagogic aims and practices in four classical languages across times and cultures. It will also test the potential for classical language learning to boost educational outcomes for disadvantaged students in contrasting cultural and educational contexts.

Dr Holmes-Henderson, said: “I am delighted to be collaborating with researchers in Germany, Thailand, Singapore, China and Australia to further our shared understanding of ancient languages education in policy and practice. By funding ‘The Ancient Today’ project, the Australian Research Council has made an important investment in Classics education research.”

Dr Ruppel said: "I have taught ancient languages at university and school level as well as online for almost 20 years, and have a long-standing interest in how these languages have traditionally been taught in Europe and North America. My role in the project is to add a perspective in Sanskrit instruction in the West."

The Ancient Today aims to draw attention to how widely ancient languages are taught in schools throughout the world, and the benefits this brings to learners. The methods for teaching ancient languages will be evaluated in fieldwork to be carried out in China and Italy.

The project’s outputs will comprise books, scholarly articles, briefings for policymakers in Australia and the UK, and training for PhD students. The researchers hope that, by bringing together international communities involved in the teaching and learning of ancient languages, the project will provide a model for further research and policy engagement in the Humanities. Dr Holmes-Henderson has previously undertaken award-winning research which sheds light on the impact of classical language education which fed into the policy and practice of language teaching in the UK.

Public engagement is also a priority for The Ancient Today project, and everyone can follow the regular updates posted on Twitter at @AncientToday and @drarlenehh

The project is led by Professor Yasmin Haskell at the University of Western Australia who is working collaboratively with Australian-based research partners Professor Joe Lo Bianco at the University of Melbourne and Dr Michael Champion at the Australian Catholic University.

Photograph: Ancient and (restored) modern sections of an amphitheatre in Pula, Croatia, taken by Dr Holmes-Henderson.