Can you offer any advice to students still in Africa to prepare for their enrolment/acceptance into a new school here?
Stephen: Be prepared for waiting lists at the school of your choice. Collect information early. School websites should be able to give you a lot of information. Sending application forms well in advance will be very helpful. Once in Australia, arrange for tours of schools on your short list.
Why should newly immigrated Southern Africans send their children to your school in particular?
Stephen: At King's, you will find everything we do is strongly grounded in Christian principles. We are not a selective school. We aim to provide a well rounded education, offering a broad range of options academically, culturally, spiritually, socially and physically. Our aim is to give students the opportunity to lay the foundations for a successful life.
How well do you find newly immigrated Southern African students settle into Australian schooling systems?
Stephen: Generally, I hear comments from our families who say they have a busy but happy routine. I am told that their children are happy at school and enjoy the wide range of sports, artistic and other co-curricular opportunities they are offered.
Could you give a few examples of common problems that Southern African students would benefit from hearing about before starting school in Australia?
Stephen: Language: Australian English places different pronunciation on vowels compared with South African English. South African parents at our school have told me that they sometimes misunderstand words because of this, and if they are parents of Prep / Year 1 children, can have difficulty helping their children practice the sounds of vowels that they learn at school. Cultural: There are Australian slang words that exist nowhere else. (An Australian going to South Africa would strike the same issue.) Sometimes there are common words that have a slightly different meaning in common Australian speech than would be experienced in South Africa.
What is your opinion about the quality of education between Public and Private Schools in Australia?
Stephen: Generalisations are very difficult. Public schools in Australia provide a good universal education. (Each State has a slightly different system) Independent Schools, while working within a similar framework are able to provide an education that is different to the public system. This difference will depend on the philosophy of the school board or governing body. Parents wishing to send their children to an Independent School should contact schools (visit websites, read literature, talk to parents) to choose a school that has a value structure that matches their own.
What would you say to people who cannot afford private education and have to send their children to public/state schools?
Stephen: There is a wide variety of fee structures in Australian Independent Schools. While some can be quite expensive, low fee schools can have a fee structure that is not much more than the real cost of attending some public schools. For families who would prefer to send their children to a private school but suspect they may not be able to afford to, I would recommend that they try to understand the total cost of attending school at their local public school versus the low fee private school of their choice. For example, the private school may have a fee that is all inclusive. The public school may not have tuition fees, but there may be an expectation for parents to pay a variety of levies for computers, sport, text books, co curricular activities etc. With this knowledge, parents may find that the difference in cost is not as great at it first seemed.