20 / 2004
Mojca Peček


The entire Australian society is essentially marked by three periods in regard of dealing with immigrants; they go from the policy of white Australia to non-discriminatory immigration policy, called Australian multiculturalism. All mentioned periods substantially influence the Australian education system as well. Australia has long ago accepted the standpoint that mastering English language is the key to a complex participation in Australian society. What is new in multiculturalism policy in comparison to the previous two periods is that it does not demand oblivion of the cultures of immigrants. A variety of aspects of Australian way of life exists, which the newcomers must accept but at the same time it is anticipated that immigrants and their children might want to preserve their customs and tradition. That reflects in education as well. Multicultural education is not a part of the curriculum in the form of a specific subject, for example mathematics. Subjects, which at first sight reflect multiculturalism most are English language as a second language (ESL) and languages other than English (LOTE). Multicultural education as such must be a composite part of all major education fields and must be reflected in the ethos of schools.

As researches indicate, school plays a significant role in learning English with children of parents who know little or no English language; with this connected is the anticipation that the children of immigrants will as adults include successfully in the labour market and in Australian society as a whole. Numerous programmes are formed for immigrant children, from enabling additional aid to pupils originating from non English speaking environments to English as a second language, which pupils attend instead of the “real” English, and English language schools and centres for newcomers. It is on the other hand possible to learn several other languages which pupils can take as graduation exams, with which the equality of languages and cultures is practised on the school level.

The Australian educational system most certainly exhibits a huge effort and tendency for equality of all ethnic communities, and leaves to the individual to decide which customs deriving from one’s heritage one will preserve and which one will change, which all indicates a wide openness of the Australian society. If the statement that a civilisation should be judged by its attitude towards minorities holds, there is certainly much effort invested in that direction. That does not mean there is no discrimination in Australian schools and society; this is one of the themes, which they cannot and do not want ever to avoid because of their multiculturalism, and which they at all times try to keep in the centre of attention and confront with it.