The Power of Schools

LIZ CALLIGEROS

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Are schools the key in reducing the amount of racial discrimination in our community? Photo: Wikimedia

Australia has experienced sustained population growth for many decades, with substantial increase in immigrant numbers since the late 1990’s.

A new study released by the Scanlon Foundation suggests that schools may play a large role in improving racial discrimination in Australia.

Australia@2015 is the largest survey of Australian born and immigrants undertaken in Australia to date with over ten thousand respondents. Professor Andrew Markus from Monash University was commissioned to design and undertake a benchmark measure of social cohesion within a prolonged period of sustained and significant immigration.

“We are seeing twice as much discrimination in Australia than was reported in 2007” – Professor Andrew Markus.

The survey was open between September 2015 and February 2016 online and in focus groups in Australia’s four largest cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. Logan and Inala were chosen for Brisbane’s case study due to the high density of ethnic diversity in these areas.

“Schools can make a huge difference for diversity. A new Principal took over at Logan high school and transformed the views on diversity,” Professor Andrew Markus said.

This Logan school experienced a ‘massive change’ following reforms implemented by the new teaching staff.

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Introducing in new teaching methods and enforcing uniform made a ‘massive’ difference for a Logan high school. Photo: Wikipedia

The changes to the school enforced students to wear uniforms and brought in new teaching elements, such as cultural sensitivity.

“They brought culture into the schools, like in teaching the children traditional dances they get to perform in front of the parents,” one student said.

The British 2007 summary report, What Works in Community Cohesion, found that projects among young people should be a priority as they are more vulnerable to disengagement and alienation, which becomes a concern as they will be the future of those communities.

CEO of the Scanlon Foundation, Anthea Hancocks, supports this idea and understands the huge role of schools in creating a more open and accepting community.

“There is huge power of schools and power of the community in targeting these issues, we are seeing this in the research and in our six or seven hubs located in schools in the area,” Ms Hancocks said.

“Schools are understanding the importance of equality in the community and it is making a difference.”

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