Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bilingual School Support Officers

The emergence of African bilingual workers is reshaping the Australian education system in the 21st century; adding real value to the education and training of the new arrivals.

The Bilingual School Support Officers (BSSO) program is an initiative of South Australia’s Department of Education and Children Services. Generally though, it is administered through the English for the speakers of other languages program.

Currently, there are 21 African BSSOs from different language groups operating in South Australian schools. And the result, so far, has been absolutely impressive.

In fact, there is an overwhelming support for the program. The parents love the idea, the students adore it, and the community leaders think it is the best thing that has happened in this part of the world since the slice bread.

Nevertheless, the role of the BSSO is to work with classroom teachers in order to bridge the gap between students and the curriculum; helping the new arrivals to understand the language of instruction.

“The BSSOs also help children with academic problems”, so says Gordon Tutt, a Sudanese refugee who works as a bilingual support officer in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

“Due to cultural differences, there have been some disputes among the students themselves or with students from other ethnic groups.

“In such cases, BSSOs often work with teachers to mediate conflict using their cultural knowledge”.

The point to note, however, is that African ingenuity (or creativity) has been deliberately used in the Australian school system to facilitate learning and to generate positive educational outcomes for students of all cultures.
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