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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 March 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 MARCH 2018 7 COMMUNITY Are children of newly-arrived migrants snubbing Greek School? NICK DALLAS There are a variety of providers of Greek language courses for school children in Melbourne: government schools, independent schools, the Victorian School of Languages (VSL) and what many of us have grown up with, the after-hours Greek Schools comprising community, church-based, and private providers. This latter sector deliver most of Greek language courses, more than 60 per cent of all students can be found at more than 40 campuses spread throughout Melbourne. However according to the Australian Federation of Ethnic Schools Associations this sector has experienced a 12 per cent decline in enrolments since the beginning of the decade. The decline is not as marked as that of the government and independent school sectors which have experienced more significant declines for different reasons. This long-term steady decline is perceived as logical and the accepted wisdom of the day. Greek language enrolments peaked in the 1980s and there's been a steady decline ever since. Why the concern for what's attributed as a natural state of affair? Because during this same time period, which overlaps with the economic crisis in Greece, we have had the arrival of around 1,000 school-aged children from Greece and Cyprus who could have theoretically bolstered these numbers, or at least severely restricted the decline. More specifically, ABS data from the 2016 Census shows that 959 children aged 18 years old and under arrived in Australia between August 2015 to August 2016. Two things are happening here. Firstly the attrition rate of local Greek Australian students is much higher than 12 per cent and this issue requires both a separate discussion and examination; to a large extent it is a quality and early years issue but I won't stray from the topic. Secondly a large proportion of newly-arrived overseas Greekspeaking students are not attending any form of Greek language tuition. I dare say that this number could be as high as 40 per cent, that's almost 400 students. Although such data is not collected or disseminated by school authorities, I feel it isn't too far off the mark since we have a good idea where the enrolled students are located. For a start, over 200 are at the Greek Community of Melbourne's GPL (Greek as a Pri- mary Language) campuses. Significant numbers can be found at independent schools such as Oakleigh Grammar, St Johns College and Alphington Grammar, and at government schools such as South Oakleigh Secondary College, while the remaining are scattered amongst other providers. One can speculate on the reasons why these students are not attending; the first priority of migrant families arriving in Australia is to find a home, find employment and organise schooling for their children. This process rarely goes smoothly and often takes quite some time, in many cases even years, before things settle down. Students on their part, are focused on acclimatising to their new school environment, learning English and developing friendship circles. Attend- ing Greek School can be considered as an optional extra, a luxury, an extra expense once all these life necessities are put into place. For younger children in a very short period of time, English becomes their dominant language. It is very easy for one's oral and written Greek communication skills to fade without regular school attendance. I believe other reasons include ill-informed parental attitudes (they already speak Greek, I want them to focus on learning English) or an unpreparedness to allocate the time and commitment to take their children to a Greek School usually after hours. It's important that as a community we reach out to these families and encourage their children's participation. For those of us brought up in Australia, Greek school was almost like a rite of passage, that's what most families did and it's a trend ingrained in many of the next generation. That's why Modern Greek has one of the highest participation rates as a community language despite students being essentially thirdgeneration going into fourth. The benefits of language learning in early years education are well known, everyone should be encouraged to take up this option when there's a window of opportunity. AFTER HOURS GREEK LANGUAGE ENROLMENTS Year .............Total enrolled 2011 .....................7,225 2017 .....................6,384 Variation ...........-841 ...........(-12%) Nick Dallas is a member of the Education Committee of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne. St Monica’s College Epping has achieved a four-star rating from the Resource Smart Schools program St Monica's College has been granted a ResourceSmart 4 Award. The annual awards, now in their 10th year, recognise the sustainability achievements of Victorian schools and their contribution to taking action on climate change. The distinction was presented to the college by Bronwyn Halfpenny MP, State Member for Thomastown last Friday. Managed by Sustainability Victoria, the ResourceSmart Schools program provides practical support to reduce resource use, make cost savings, integrate sustainability into the curriculum and share learnings beyond the school gate. As part of achieving this rating the college needs to demonstrate a reduction in consumption of water and energy as well as a reduction in waste as well as effective recycling. St Monica's Epping principal Brian Hanley welcomed the achievement saying: "Congratulations to our EnviroFriends staff and students who have worked very hard to have this impact on the college's overall environmental sustainability." St Monica’s College community has another reason to be proud – teacher Rachel Zammit was a finalist for the ResourceSmart 4 Awards 2017 Teacher of the Year Secondary award, one of Victoria’s biggest sustainability awards for schools. Politician Browyn Halfpenny presented the star to Rachel Zammit, coordinator of St Monica’s College Epping Envirofriends program.
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