03 March 2006

CBHS: Student population

This will be the first of several posts discussing what school is like in Australia, specifically, Canterbury Boys High School. Enjoy.
CBHS is truly a diverse school. I have heard that there are about ninety different countries represented amongst a student body of 480. I teach students from Australia (both Anglo and Aboriginal), Tonga, New Zealand, New Guinea, Fiji, China, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Romania, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and on and on. In all, every continent other than Antarctica and I believe North America is represented. At first I thought it was strange that we have students from everywhere except NA, but after thinking about it, I think it makes sense. NA is basically just Mexico, US, and Canada. Mexicans are virtually non-existent here (and, unfortunately, their food), and any US and Canadian expatriates here don't live in CBHS's zone--they are either in the city (like us), on the beach, or if they have kids, in the more white collar suburbs. A few of the students have family in America, and a few others have visited. I have heard a rumour there might be a student from the Dominican Republic, but I have not been able to confirm this yet.
Back to my point: CBHS is a very diverse place to teach. In addition to the great variety of countries represented, there is also a variety of background experiences that affect the students. The Islander students have a very strong family bond, often referring to other Islander students as their cousin. Because of this sharing, familial community bond, they sometimes do not have their materials for class because they have given them to someone else to use. They are sometimes late for class or do not meet deadlines because time is not as relevant to their lives. Some here refer to this as "Islander-time." Some of my students are refugees from Africa or the Middle East. Many of these have spent a few years in refugee camps before they landed in AU and have gaps in their learning. Many of the Aboriginal students feel marginalised by Anglo Australia. Most of these international students have family back at "home." Many do not consider themselves Australian, even if they have been here most, if not all, of their lives.
But the obvious positive to this diversity is the opportunity to learn about other people and countries. I have enjoyed talking to students about their home countries. The other positive is the strong community bond at the school. There is the potential for conflict with the ethnic diversity, and this is unfortunately true at other schools in the area. But the boys at our school have a great deal of respect for each other's culture, religious beliefs, and backgrounds. It is this sense of community that makes working here the wonderful experience for me that is has been.

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