2008 Beverly HillsIntensive English Centreentre

Ambassadors cultural exchangeof Diversity
Cultural Exchange Program
Why Cultural Exchange ?
What Research Tells Us
Wollumbin 2008  

Tweed Heads
N'Famas Visit

Ambassadors of Diversity for more than 25 years Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre, located in South West Sydney, has maintained an enviable reputation for excellence in assisting newly arrived migrant and refugee young people of secondary school age to settle into life in Australia and to develop the English language and learning skills they need for effective participation and learning at high school.

In recent years the arrival of young people from African countries has added to the already rich and varied cultural, linguistic and religious diversity that are lived realities of students and staff at Beverly Hills I. E. C. Coming up with the goods to meet the complex range of language, learning and personal adjustment needs of these sometimes deeply traumatised young people has not infrequently stretched the expertise and flexibility of staff at the Centre. The successful progress of students in their secondary education is testament that the staff members get it right.

Developing the English language needed for interpersonal communication and learning through the secondary curriculum are the main focus of classroom instruction, however, staff also put a lot of energy into promoting quality relationships with students and between students. In a very real way, the Centre teaches the foundational skill of cooperation with others, and cooperation across cultural, linguistic and religious differences in particular.

The Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) operated by the Centre was introduced to take the idea of cooperation a bit further and to give students opportunities for practical experience as ambassadors of diversity. From the beginning, exchanges have set up meaningful learning and fun activities in which students from the Centre and the exchange school work and share together. This approach has made exchanges even more successful than anticipated. Some examples will make it clear why the innovative efforts of the Centre’s Cultural Exchange Program were awarded the Director-General’s School Achievement Award.

• In the wake of unrest in the Sutherland Shire in December 2005, BHIEC approached Menai High School to conduct a cultural exchange. Centre staff provided the energy and commitment to get the exchange off the ground, to overcome concerns of staff at Menai HS and to make the exchange a success. And it was a success. Ms Carmel Tebbut, then Minister for Education and Training, commended the cultural exchange program in parliament for the work done to increase understanding between culturally diverse communities and to “…open up to students opportunities that they would not otherwise have.” (NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard and Papers 9 March 2006). 

• For four days in May 2006 another group of ambassadors of diversity from Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre travelled to Tweed Shire on the far north coast of New South Wales to share life experiences, learning and fun with students from Kingscliff High School and Wollumbin High School. Again the exchange was a ringing success that helped students and staff to better understand and accept that they have much in common even with differing cultural, linguistic and religious heritages.

• More recently, BHIEC ambassadors for diversity travelled to Coonabarabran High School, in western New South Wales, to establish ties with the Gamillaroi Aboriginal community and other members of the school community. This exchange had a heart-warming impact on breaking down stereotypes and highlighting similarities. Without doubt, students from BHIEC benefited as richly as the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students of Coonabarabran High School. The exchange attracted a lot of positive attention in the local community, including a front page lead article in the Coonabarabran Times under the headline, “Diverse multiculturalism breaks down stereotypes.”

Beverly Hills IEC students and staff do not keep to themselves the experiences and potential benefits of cultural exchanges. For example, there have been presentations at workshops and conferences including Respect and Responsibility forum in 2006, the State SRC conferences of both 2006 and 2007, and most recently at the Stand Up Speak Out anti-racism conference in May 2007.

The cultural exchange program of BHIEC is a good news story that has attracted positive media attention, (newspaper articles attached). More importantly, it resoundingly demonstrates the commitment of public schools to keeping decency, compassion and ‘a fair go for all’ realities not myths in Australian society.

Without doubt the Cultural Exchange Program initiated by Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre has made a worthwhile and considerable contribution to breaking down barriers and overcoming prejudiced attitudes and beliefs about cultural, linguistic and religious differences among students, staff, billeting families and school communities that participated in the program.

There have been many accolades for the cultural exchanges initiated by the staff of Beverly Hills IEC but one of the most precious came from a student from an exchange school who said, ‘You know Miss, all kids should do this stuff ….it makes you feel you belong just as you are.’

For further information please contact Mr Michael Harmey, Deputy Principal, on 9533 1293

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