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In memoriam

  Jane Orton (1945-2020)

CASLAR (Chinese as a Second Language Research) Association has suffered a great loss. We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our greatest leaders, Dr. Jane Orton. She passed away peacefully after a serious illness. It is impossible to express in words how essential and important Jane’s work has been to CASLAR. She has been one of our greatest advocates and best supporters from the very beginning of the foundation of our association. She recognized how important it was to have an organization that brings together Chinese and non-Chinese scholars from all over the world to do research in order to support Chinese language acquisition and teaching.

Professor Orton has had a very distinguished career. She went to China to teach English and English Teaching Methodology in the Foreign Languages Department of Beijing Teachers College (now Capital Normal University) in 1981. In her second year there she took the Chinese Pedagogy and Psychology courses in Chinese compulsory for her students, and thereby cemented relationships with students and teachers still vibrant today. Back in Melbourne she returned to La Trobe University where she taught ESL Methodology and wrote an award-winning PhD thesis, “Educating the Reflective Practitioner in China”, which was completed in 1990.   

Jane Orton went to the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne in 1989 as Senior Project Officer for the Asian Languages in Teacher Education Project. From 1992-2008 she coordinated Modern Languages Education in the Faculty. She was also an Executive Member of the Australia-China Business Council, including five years as a Vice President.

In 2008, she produced a report, Chinese Language Education in Australian Schools, which suggested remedial action to improve the quality of teaching and learning outcomes, including the establishment of an Australian Centre for Chinese language teaching. In 2009 she became Director of the Chinese Teacher Training Centre, established by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in collaboration with China’s Hanban Office. When the Department did not continue funding after 2015, Jane retired.  She became an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

In 2016 the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology, Sydney published Building Chinese Language Proficiency in Australia, a comprehensive report on the current state of Chinese language education written by Jane Orton. Among other recent publications in 2019, with co-author Andrew Scrimgeour, she published Teaching Chinese as a Second Language - The Way of the Learner. Professor Orton has supervised more than forty theses on language and culture education and for over two decades she has presented and published widely on communication between Chinese and Australians. She has also designed and published several innovative electronic language teaching resources for Chinese.

Professor Orton joined the CASLAR movement in 2010. She firmly believed in the goals of the organization and participated actively in all CASLAR initiatives. When in 2018 the CASRI research initiative was launched she became the supervisor of the “innovative pedagogical approaches” research group. In several publications she promoted content learning in Chinese. Professor Orton was invited to give a keynote address at the CASLAR-6 conference to be held on August 5-7, 2020 at the George Washington University in the USA. We regretfully need to announce that Jane will not be with us at CASLAR-6 but she will remain with us in our thoughts forever.


Istvan Kecskes

on behalf of the CASLAR Association