Fairfield High School

Language need not be a barrier to remote learning.

Schools everywhere have been disrupted by COVID-19 but you can double that disruption when there is a large number of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The Intensive English Centre (IEC) at Fairfield High School in Sydney’s south-western suburbs provides intensive English language instruction, and welfare and settlement support to newly-arrived migrant, refugee and international students.

The students come from as far afield as Vietnam, South America and Africa, and from war-torn nations such as Iraq and Syria. Their schooling disrupted by war and migration, their lives marked by trauma, these students face significant disadvantage when it comes to learning English and other subjects.

To cater for the unique needs of IEC students, Fairfield High has created a tailored Remote learning guide for the children and their families to ensure continuity of learning and equitable access to education.

Instructions that are usually only available to English-speaking students have been translated into various languages and collated into one, easily accessible document.

For example, a detailed bilingual English-Arabic guide helps newly-arrived refugee students navigate the school’s remote learning platform.

The guide provides students with useful step-by-step instructions in English and Arabic on a range of topics including:

  • how to use school email
  • how to join and use the online platform
  • how to use the student’s own language on the computer
  • general advice about the rules and guidelines for online learning.

The guide has boosted students’ engagement and confidence, and in some cases, for the first time, parents who can’t speak English have been able to help their children with homework because the instructions are in their own language.

Teachers are using the guide as a teaching strategy to further develop English language-based activities, creating quizzes and comprehension exercises that complement existing teaching programs. It is also an effective tool for face-to-face lessons.

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