Sydney University enhancing language education

Sydney University enhancing language education

A frequent obstacle for aspirational new Australians is that the qualifications received in their home countries are not always recognised in Australia, preventing them contributing their unique skills to the Australian community.

This can also be demoralising for an immigrant already struggling to find their bearings in a new country.

Currently, 80% of teachers in NSW Community Languages Schools have qualifications from overseas and 55% have experience in teaching, but only 4% have become accredited teachers in NSW.

A new program recently launched by the University of Sydney and the NSW Education Department aims to increase this number significantly by having highly-skilled foreign-born teachers educate new generations of students.

The joint partnership between the university and government body, called ‘The Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education’ (SICLE) – which has just announced its first graduating cohort – offers classes in more than 60 different community languages.

At an awards ceremony held in the University of Sydney’s Great Hall in April, nearly 200 volunteer teachers working in NSW community language schools were recognised for successfully completing professional learning programs that will provide enhanced learning outcomes for students.

“The importance of language in maintaining cultural identity cannot be overestimated,” The Minister for Multiculturalism, Ray Williams, said at the ceremony.

“The NSW Government has a proud history of supporting communities from language backgrounds other than English and we are pleased to continue to support the important programs delivered by SICLE.”

Williams said the program helps students learn and use another language and connects young Australians to the language, heritage and culture of their community.

“It also helps build strong communities and it helps build respect in Australia for our many different cultures,” he said.

One representative example is Arabic language teacher Heba al Hamarsheh, who with the completion of this program is on the way to realising her ambition of teaching in mainstream schools.

“I was a high school robotics and IT teacher overseas, but I couldn’t get my qualifications recognised in Australia,” she said.

The University’s website tells of how the program was able to lend her a helping hand:

“A new arrival to a country where she had no existing friends or family, Ms. al Hamarsheh pursued her love of teaching as a community languages school teacher for three years before undertaking SICLE’s Diploma in Language Teaching program. She hopes to find work eventually teaching in a mainstream school.”

But the University of Sydney’s good work in this regard is by no means a new phenomenon. Indeed, they were “the first to provide teacher education for community language teachers in NSW in 1975 and the first to provide professional development for teachers in NSW community languages schools.”

And it “remains one of the few universities to have introduced languages teaching units into primary school teacher education.”

“In NSW, 2925 community language teachers volunteer their time each week to teach 36,288 students 62 community languages – from Arabic to Vietnamese – outside school hours, playing a key role in keeping their heritage and language alive.”