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Students welcome migrants to the classroom for cultural exchange

Shindano Ecanga and St Mary's students

Circle of welcome: Shindano Ecanga shares his experiences about coming to Australia with St Mary’s students.

ST Mary’s Primary School, Ipswich, invited a group of adult English learners from TAFE Queensland’s Ipswich campus to share their life experience and practise their English skills.

The students aimed to make Jesus real as they welcomed the visitors into their school and enhanced their learning about current migration trends shaping Australian society.

The TAFE students came from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

Some were refugees, some immigrants from a variety of non-English-speaking countries and others were visiting on student visas.

Before the visitors sat down for a Q&A with Year 6 students they had an opportunity to meet staff and share their stories.

Year 6 teacher Craig Sologinkin said it was the third year the primary school had invited a TAFE adult English class to meet the Year 6 cohort.

He said the Q&A was a great opportunity for the students to meet migrants from diverse backgrounds, while the TAFE students got to see first-hand how an Australian school worked.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” he said.

Mr Sologinkin, who helped organise the visit, said the Year 6 students were learning about migration trends Australia had experienced since federation.

“We wanted to know why people were coming to Australia,” he said.

“The cultural interaction fits in with what the students are learning in a HASS unit that investigated ‘who are the people who have come to Australia and why did they come’.

“The Q&A takes place in the hall with small groups of students taking ten minutes to ask questions to individual TAFE students before moving on to the next person.

“Our students had the opportunity to interview the adult students to find out about their home country, what brought them to Australia and what they liked about our country, etc.

“It’s amazing what you can learn about migrants when you sit down and talk to them in a comfortable environment.”

Year 6 student Gidhil George said she found it very interesting to hear the many different stories about how the visitors had come to Australia.

“We got to ask them many questions and learned about their lives back in their old countries, and their journeys to Australia,” she said.

As an ESL (English as a Second Language) student herself, Gidhil said some of the guests’ English was good.

She said the Q&A also helped the Year 6 students understand what it was like to learn English as a second language.

“Some of them did have trouble answering the questions because they were only beginners,” Gidhil said.

“It’s good they are learning to speak English as most people in Australia speak it and it made communication easier especially if they were looking for a job.”

TAFE Queensland English teacher Lindsay Skilton said the cultural exchange was a fantastic opportunity for his students to practise their language skills.

“They get to see how Australian schools work and how Australian kids learn and gain a lot of confidence from this cultural exchange,” he said.

“They are asked why they came to Australia, what was their journey like, impressions of Australia, both positive and negative, and how they have become a part of the community – some really interesting questions.”

Mr Skilton said hopefully the experience might inspire some of them to think about a career in teaching.

Following the Q&A session the guests joined the school for a good, old-fashioned Aussie sausage sizzle.

Written by: Staff writers
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