Spot on, Maralyn Parker!

You are SO right! Smile 

Having been an ESL teacher in the 90s and noughties I know exactly what you mean. Anyone who finds fault with this article must have been under a rock for all those two decades.

Public school teachers in this state who follow the education department’s multicultural policy must be bemused by politicians arguing about whether it has failed or not.

Our schools have had a multicultural policy – where the cultural backgrounds of children are acknowledged, valued and used to help educate them – for decades.

It makes you wonder if some Aussie pollies know what is going on in the nation’s classrooms.

They should be inviting the leaders of Britain and Germany – who recently blamed multiculturalism for home grown terrorists – to visit a few public schools in Sydney to see how it is used to teach children.

I believe our high level of tolerance for people from other races and cultures as revealed in recent research by The University of Western Sydney’s Professor Dunn comes from the long tradition of teaching multiculturalism in public schools.

It is not unusual for one school of only a few hundred students to be educating children from 60 or more different cultural and language backgrounds.

Accepting and respecting their cultural backgrounds is vital to these children being successfully educated – and for them to feel their contribution to their school and ultimately to Australian society is valued.

19eb9eec2565c61101256c4949530871In fact NSW public schools have gone beyond simple activities such as feast days and music festivals to do that.

We reached a new much more sophisticated level of teaching multiculturalism where our schools actively embrace the cultures of the dominant groups in their community and use them to connect families to the school.

For example a school with a high number of children with Pacific Islander background will employ a person from that community to liase with parents, to support the children at school and to instruct staff about specific customs or attitudes that might impact on school life.

The school hall and grounds may be used for church services and classrooms for social clubs involving local community leaders after school hours.

Public schools with a high number of children who are Muslims might allow older children to leave during school hours to attend special services at the local mosque or set aside a room for prayers during the school day.

During Ramadan teachers will be sensitive to the fact that many children are fasting and will avoid lessons with a high level of physical activity.

Children who are fasting might be given a special place to sit or play while other children eat their lunches.

These days most public schools will also try to connect with the cultural knowledge and experience of the school community by including a study of that particular country, language or culture in the school program.

At the same time all lessons are in English – the common ground for connecting – and children are taught the strong secular, public school values that men and women are equal and discrimination based on gender, race, religion, sexuality and disability should not be tolerated.

This particular Australian brand of multiculturalism is working well.

We have good reason to congratulate and be proud of our public schools for sustaining it.

The DIVISIVE ones are those who cannot accept that anyone who has pledged loyalty to Australia or has been born here is an Australian — those who say instead “this lot OK Aussie ”  but “this lot not OK Aussie.” 

Multiculturalism as practised in our schools is NOT DIVISIVE.


11 thoughts on “Spot on, Maralyn Parker!

  1. Complicated concept – multiculturalism – as all ‘isms’ are. firstly let me admit that I don’t really care where people come from, i am an ‘Australian’ -whatever that may mean. WE, as a youngish nation, are still trying to figure that out.

  2. .. and yep, was brought up with resonances of Adam Lindsay, Norman Lindsey, ‘Banjo’ Patterson, Colin Thiele – abc radio (no TV), et al …..

  3. Niel .. once upon a time I had the privilege of working with an unknowing teenager .. methinks her name was Nichole Kidman .. heh.

  4. I’m afraid I react badly to stories like that, Ramana, I wonder what purpose is served by highlighting such things. If in Australia, the school would probably be disciplined, Muslim or not, and would risk losing its accreditation, without which it could not present students for public examinations.

    We do have Islamic private schools in NSW.

    Maralyn Parker is talking about government schools, but the Jewish school I worked in 1988-9 was just as, even more, dedicated to multicultural values.

    India is an interesting case. Without being presumptuous, I hope, is it not true that India has done best when not dominated by parties (like the BJP) who could be described as antithetical to cultural pluralism?

  5. India has done well in higher education. The foundation for which is laid by private schools run by Hindu and Christian institutions and commercial institutions run for profit. The government run schools frankly, produce zeroes. Most of them have absent teachers, who are appointed by a corrupt system and patronage mechanisms.

    I am neutral on BJP’s tenure as they were as good as or as bad as the non BJP governments that I have seen throughout my life.

    Corporate philanthropy is now stepping in at the primary levels purely in enlightened self interest as otherwise the future work force will be as useless as the stuff coming out of the government run establishments.

  6. Different histories, Ramana. Here since the late 19th century “free, compulsory and secular” state school education has been, and remains, the experience of most Australians. The state schools range from good to excellent, like the one I went to and later worked in. Some ex-students —

    Entertainment, media and the arts

    * Bruce Beaver— award-winning poet.
    * Richard Bonynge — conductor of the Vancouver Opera, married Dame Joan Sutherland (opera singer)
    * Russell Crowe — actor
    * Glenn Fraser — filmmaker
    * Rick Grossman — bass guitarist (Matt Finish, Divinyls, Hoodoo Gurus and Ghostwriters)
    * John Kingsmill — author and actor
    * George Levendis — Record executive
    * Daniel MacPherson — actor and television presentor
    * Eric McCusker — guitarist and songwriter
    * George Miller — director (Happy Feet, Mad Max, Babe)
    * John Prior — drummer (Matt Finish)
    * John Stanley — radio presenter of 2UE
    * Jack Thompson, AM — actor
    * Danny Weidler — sports journalist for Network Nine and The Sun-Herald
    * Nic Testoni — actor [[Home and
    * Gregory Fine; TV Producer

    Medicine and science

    * Ronald N. Bracewell — Lewis M. Terman Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus of the Space, Telecommunications and Radioscience Laboratory at Stanford University
    * Graeme Milbourne Clark AC AO — pioneer of the multiple-channel cochlear implant; founder of the Bionic Ear Institute; Fellow of the Royal Society
    * Professor John Cornforth — Nobel Laureate for Chemistry (1975)
    * Lord Robert May of Oxford — former President of the Royal Society, Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government (1995-2000)
    * Emeritus Professor Hans Charles Freeman AM FAA — metalloprotein crystallographer and bio-inorganic chemist who established and developed the field of crystallography in Australia
    * Sir Grafton Elliot Smith — anatomist

    Politics, public service and the law

    * Sir Roden Cutler, VC AK KCMG KCVO CBE — longest serving NSW State Governor (1966-1981)[2]
    * Hon. Marcus Einfeld — retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia and former President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
    * Professor David Flint — head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority (1997-2004)
    * Ian Glachan — State Member for Albury, served as Justice of the Peace
    * Ted Mack — Mayor of North Sydney (1980-1988), State Member for North Shore (1981-1988), Federal Member for North Sydney (1990-1996)
    * Scott Morrison — Federal Member for Cook
    * Hon. Lionel Murphy — Justice of the High Court of Australia (1975-1986)
    * Sir Earle Page — Prime Minister of Australia (1939)
    * Paul Pearce — State Member for Coogee, former Mayor of Waverley
    * Hon. Nye Perram — judge of the Federal Court of Australia
    * John Pilger — journalist and documentary film-maker
    * Sir James Plimsoll — diplomat and Governor of Tasmania
    * Hon. Jim Spigelman — Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales (1998- )
    * Nicholas Whitlam — son of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam; Chief Executive of the State Bank of New South Wales
    * Tony Whitlam — son of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam; MHR (ALP) (1975-1977)
    * James Wolfensohn — President of the World Bank (1995-2005)

  7. We have indeed been blessed by it.

    Looking at the list of legal luminaries I see one I actually taught: Nye Perram. Now that makes me feel old!

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