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.
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.