In this blog post, all group members will just be sharing some of our thoughts and discoveries of our overall research and findings. What did we find interesting? What did we find strange? What did we uncover? All will be revealed in this engaging and insightful post!
Interesting facts from School 1
It was interesting to find that programs and classes that are designed to promote multilingualism can at times enhance monolingual attitudes in a school. From interviewing the students, we saw that specialised classes (such as ESL classes) designed to cater for diverse students with various languages can at times create further division between students from different language groups. ESL classes may contribute to creating a divide between these students and non-ESL students due to lack of communication. This can lead to lack of insight into other cultures and languages and without this understanding, it is difficult to expect students to have an open mind towards multiculturalism and multilingualism.
School children are easy to get influenced by social pressures and it is important to start closing the gap between native English speakers and ESL speakers. Distinguishing and separating these ESL speakers as ‘ESL students’ and placing them in a classroom made up of mostly ESL students may help keep these students in their comfort zone, but may have even bigger risk of lack of social interaction with ‘Australian’ students, culture and the language.
Findings about School 2
When I visited the school for observation, first I looked for any signs or texts written in other languages, but surprisingly I could mostly find texts written in English and the only text written in another language was a huge poster on the language classroom door. Just by physically observing the school I could not find much evidence of multilingualism, but after the research, it became much clearer that School 2 was not as linguistically diverse as I expected.
Although there are many students who come from language backgrounds other than English, the dominant language used was English both inside and outside the classroom. There wasn’t any school rule or policy forcing them to speak ‘only English’ but English was a dominant language used by many students. Yes, they accept international students each year, but it turned out that these international students are mostly from the same language background, not necessarily diverse, and is only a small number compared to the number of local students. On top of this, these students tend to group themselves as ‘international students’, creating a barrier from the local students. It also seemed to me that the school did not actively promote the importance of learning different languages compared to other schools. School 2 only provides two language subjects, Japanese and French. Students study one of these languages in year 7 and 8 but from year 9, it becomes an elective subject and many students choose not to study it. Even the student I interviewed mentioned that sometimes a language class does not open for seniors due to low demand for the subject.
Overall, it was interesting to see how the school attempted to promote the linguistic diversity. However, I find that they should still provide students with more opportunities and choices to develop their linguistic knowledge and proficiency, as well as continuing to accept international students, but from a wider range of language background and creating a comfortable atmosphere for students to freely communicate across their language barriers.
What I discovered about School 3
I was surprised as to how linguistically diverse School 3 was which basically equates to not at all. I originally had this view in my head that selective schools were predominantly monolingual due to the academic demands of the school but after researching School 3, the linguistic diversity was even lower than what I had initially expected. The school barely had any signs that were not in English and even the signs on the language department were printed from a mere A4 paper and stuck on the door. Very enthusiastic, I know.
I was hoping to find some student artwork that may have represented evidence of different languages present in the school but even then, there was hardly anything. School 3 had started to remind me of plain vanilla ice cream in terms of the linguistic diversity that was present. There really was not much impact at all.
Even the student I interviewed who said majority of the students come from language backgrounds other than English commented on how dominant English was in and around the school and also how language was not offered in the school for the senior years forcing students to study it online. It also appeared to not have been picked by many students due to being a lower scaling subject and interest itself is not enough for students to choose that subject. I think over the many years of Australian education, language has been embedded into our students as being a leisure activity that represents little important for our futures compared to the main academics such as English, Mathematics and Science. This monolingual ideology has developed for so long but it isn’t too late to change and shape our views of language. School 1, 2 and 4 of our study have all demonstrated that in some areas of Sydney, there are schools that are willing to promote linguistic diversity and portray the importance that it holds for our future and I think it is time for schools such as School 3 to start paying more attention to the importance of multilingualism for our students.
Exploring and uncovering School 4
Comparing School 4 with the rest of School 1, 2 and 3, it was somehow easier for me to discover the visual presence of linguistic diversity and its value engaged from the school and the students. When I visited School 4 for an observation and to take some photos, I was amazed by how students’ artworks up on the wall, and other signs, and posters on the notice boards were full of concepts with multicultural and multilingual aspects. The language department and some classrooms that are specifically designated for language subjects had a lot of visual resources at the back of the room that represent their cultural and linguistic aspects and values. It seemed School 4 is actively promoting the linguistic diversity towards students and teachers, and creating comfortable atmosphere for those international students from non-English speaking background countries.
Many students often avoid language subjects for their HSC because they think these subjects will affect their overall HSC ATAR scaling, and some students assume language subjects are too difficult to learn. However School 4 has overall the largest number of linguistic programs compare to School 1, 2, and 3 as there are 10 language subjects designated for students, including year 11 and 12 students who chose language subjects as their HSC subjects. I think this is as a matter of fact schools’ responsibility to promote linguistic diversity through actively engaging students’ interests in different languages and motivation in learning other languages. I realise that this will also affect positive attitudes of students and teachers towards embracing linguistic diversity, to develop better multilingual society in the future.