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Minister Ray Williams (far right) with the first graduating cohort of volunteer teachers from NSW community language schools.
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Community languages institute celebrates first graduating cohort

19 February 2019
Qualifications awarded to migrant and refugee volunteer teachers
The Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education (SICLE) - a partnership between the University of Sydney and New South Wales Department of Education - has celebrated its first graduating cohort.
Minister Ray Williams speaking at the ceremony.

Minister Ray Williams speaking at the ceremony.

At an awards ceremony held in the University of Sydney’s Great Hall last Sunday, nearly 200 volunteer teachers working in NSW community language schools were recognised for successfully completing professional learning programs that will provide enhanced learning outcomes for students.

The community languages teachers – mainly women from migrant and refugee backgrounds – completed professional learning and English preparation programs through SICLE, which was launched at the University of Sydney last year through a significant state government investment.

Teachers completed the Community Languages Teaching Program – Advanced and Community Languages School Leadership and Management Program courses, as well as the ISLPR (International Second Language Proficiency Rating Scale) test.

Delivering the keynote address at the awards ceremony, Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams congratulated the students and acknowledged the important role of community language teachers in passing on language and cultural knowledge.

“The importance of language in maintaining cultural identity cannot be overestimated. The NSW Government has a proud history of supporting communities from language backgrounds other than English and we are pleased to continue to support the important programs delivered by SICLE,” Minister Williams said. 

Heba al Hamarsheh speaking at the SICLE ceremony.

Heba al Hamarsheh speaking at the SICLE ceremony.

For Arabic language teacher Heba al Hamarsheh, her study is beginning a pathway to teaching in mainstream schools.

“I was a high school robotics and IT teacher overseas, but I couldn’t get my qualifications recognised in Australia,” she said.

A new arrival to a country where she had no existing friends or family, Ms al Hamarsheh pursued her love of teaching as a community languages school teacher for three years before undertaking SICLE’s Community Languages Teaching Program – Advanced program. She hopes to find work eventually teaching in a mainstream school.

SICLE Director Professor Ken Cruickshank from the University’s School of Education and Social Work said Ms al Hamarsheh was just one of over 2,500 overseas-trained teachers who would, with advice, guidance and training, be able to pursue accreditation to teach in NSW.

“Eighty percent of teachers in NSW Community Languages Schools have qualifications from overseas and 55 percent have experience in teaching, but historically only four percent have become accredited teachers in NSW – we are thrilled to be working with the NSW Government to increase this,” he said.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence congratulated Ms al Hamarsheh and the other graduating students on their achievements.

“I am pleased to see the University of Sydney’s strong track record of excellence in community languages education continuing and thank the NSW Department of Education for partnering with us to support linguistic diversity and educational opportunity,” Dr Spence said.  

The University of Sydney was the first to provide teacher education for community language teachers in NSW in 1975 and the first to provide professional development for teachers in NSW community languages schools. It remains one of the few universities to have introduced languages teaching units into primary school teacher education.

In NSW, 2925 community language teachers volunteer their time each week to teach 36,288 students 62 community languages – from Arabic to Vietnamese – outside school hours, playing a key role in keeping their heritage and language alive.

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