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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Children of Migrant Families in Australia: Language Proficiency and School Achievement

Dr Rosemary Suliman.

Australia is recognised as a country of linguistic and cultural diversity where a significant number of its people use another language at home alongside English and have cultural values and traditions different from those of Anglo-Celtic Australians. In Sydney, one in every two people are first or second generation immigrants 2ho come from over 180 birthplaces (Ethnic Commission of NSW, 1998). This means that a significant number of students in Sydney and in other Australian cities come from a home where another language is used alongside English. One prominent characteristic, highlighted by research, is the low level of school achievement of these students. This is often attributed to the fact that these students have a language other than English at home.

This paper presents an overview of studies and research which address the issues related to children growing up with more than one language and the implications of this on school achievement. It addresses the following questions:

a) How proficient are these students in English and in the other language ?
b) What are the implications of this language situation on their school achievement?

This is done by referring to a recent study conducted by the author on the Language Proficiency and School Achievement of a significant group on migrant students in Australian schools in Sydney.


Dr Rosemary Suliman  (Australia)
Lecturer, Course Advisor
School of Languages & Linguistics College of Arts, Education & Social Sciences
University of Western Sydney

Rosemary Suliman, of Egyptian origin, born in the Sudan and migrated to Australia in 1972 where she worked in the field of Education in Australian schools and universities. At the moment she is a lecturer in Education and Arabic at the University of Western Sydney. She is a pioneer in the teaching of Arabic at all levels since its inception in Australia and has developed new methodology and written books for teaching Arabic with a special focus on the Australian-born student for whom Arabic is not a dominant language. Her research work is mainly with Arabic-speaking students in schools and universities , examining issues of Language Proficiency, Motivational Goals and Academic Achievement.

  • Australia
  • Children of Migrant Families
  • Language Proficiency
  • School Achievement

(60 min Workshop, English)