The Guardian 1 February, 2006

Government neglecting migrant kids

"The Howard Government continues to neglect the needs of non-English speaking background (NESB) migrant and refugee children", Angelo Gavrielatos, Deputy President of the NSW Teachers Federation, said last week.

The Howard Government "is responsible for the scandalous under-funding of essential English language programs for migrant and refugee children", Mr Gavreitlaos said.

Yet in his statement on January 25, 2006, Prime Minister Howard said of migrants, "we expect them to master the common language of English".

A New South Wales Department of Education and Training (DET) briefing paper has confirmed the extent to which the Federal Government has neglected non-English speaking background (NESB) migrant and refugee students. The critical section of the DET brief reveals the following:

  • The students who are not receiving ESL support are at risk of not developing English literacy to enable full participation in the curriculum.

  • From 1983 until 2004 the face-to-face ESL teacher to ESL student contact ratio increased from 1:55 to 1:110 (primary) and from 1:42 to 1:78 (secondary). This approximates a doubling of the student teacher contact ratio and demonstrates a significant deterioration in ESL program access in both primary and secondary schools over these periods.

  • Since 1983, the number of students assessed as requiring ESL assistance but unable to receive it, has trebled to 41,158 students.

    "Professor Tony Vinson, in his landmark inquiry into the provision of Public Education, recommended the appointment of an additional 100 ESL teachers", noted Mr Gavrielatos.

    "The Teachers’ Federation calls on the Prime Minister and the newly appointed Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, to give substance to his statement by announcing the immediate provision of $12 million to allow migrant and refugee students to ‘master the common language of English’."

    Denying young migrants and refugees access to the necessary ESL assistance will only make it more difficult for them to complete their studies and gain skills to enhance their opportunities in life. It is a recipe for social problems, increasing the likelihood of ending up in extremely low paid, unskilled work or unemployed.

    Back to index page