Monday, November 23, 2009

Racism, Non-Tolerance, or Just The Easy Way Out?

Pix Credits- Flor Saluzzo. 

A conversation with a church mate today led me to think about my practicum experience at uni. This church mate is a lady in her early 50s, and has a daugher currently completing her remainder of her tertiary studies in Melbourne, Victoria.

Her daughter described the experience as "Racist". 

Perhaps for the rest of us Malaysians, who have been fortunate to be trained and taught in the same English language that the Aussies did, and the ability to speak it well too, we may not be at the end-stick of "racist experience."

Some of the incidents that the daughter noted were,
  • asians, notedly many from China being shouted at by the Administration staff for not being able to communicate in English. The daughter had to step in to intervene.
  • cases of Asians (in this case anyways) being bullied at train stations.
The mother was concerned that if this had happened in the girl's university, what more could be said if it was out in the bigger circle of the Melbourne city?

The mother also mentioned that perhaps in a city like Melbourne, the growing denomination of asians may pose it too close for comfort for the local caucasian residents, who are lashing back in discomfort at the proximity and rate that the migration is growing. I really do beg to differ.

However from my perspective, it may be worst in the surburb where I had gone to, where Asians make barely less than 1 percent.

I'd like to share my experience of my time there. I've not written much about my time during my practicum at uni, as I was thrown into a situation which I truly did not understand what happened then. Yes, and it took  courage to finally write this down after the incident happened two years back.

During my 2nd year (which essentially was the final year practicum) in Toowoomba, I did my practicum in a Catholic Girls College. It was basically a private all girls school. 

It was not an easy ride for me. I thought I was doing fine until the teacher who had me told me I had to leave!

Now that I reflect on it, I realised it was a one-down situation for me. Not only did the mentor teachers assumed the very worst of me, they did not inform of what had gone wrong, nor bothered to discuss the entire situation with me. In fact, they blamed me for what had gone wrong.

Let me analyse the situation here for all caucasians, of how a teacher who is brought up in a typical asian background would expect when she goes to an Australian school setting.


In a typical asian school, be it pre-school, primary school, or secondary school, most teachers do not have the luxury of what is called "curriculum planning" time.

Whereas from what I have found, even in preschool and primary school, all schools in Australia allocate a special curriculum planning time where the school brings in a substitute teacher to take over the class at least if not once a week, it'll be once in two weeks.

The allocated  "curriculum planning" time is normally about 2-3 hours where the teacher goes to the "teacher's room" and goes and supposedly does her planning.

For a person who's only having her second practicum in an Australian private school, I was not aware of these practices that I'd assume have been going on for the past twenty years or so? (Not that I would know, would I?)

Asians, especially the chinese, like to jest with one another, saying, "hei, lei tau lan ah?" (hei, are you snaking off (from work)? 

When I look back at this, my mentor teacher then related to me that I had "questioned" the motive of this one particular teacher I had seen in the staff room who was not at work.
  • Tell me, was it wrong of me to ask what she was doing in the staff room? 
  • Was it wrong of her to assume that I was being "condescending" to her?
  • Who exactly is right in these situations?

Actually the same applies whether they are working at the front desk, as the contract household housekeeper, or even the part-time sub teacher that comes in to help with the work. This I believe, applies to all individuals who have grown and brought up in an Australian setting for more than fifteen years the least.

Perhaps the same applies to those brought up in New Zealand, but for now, this only applies to Australia, as per my personal experience.

I have observed that even classroom assistants are proud of their work, whereas their counterparts in an asian setting (meaning Malaysia) would not regard their work with the same respect.

It was when I returned to Malaysia and tried to apply the same regard for my work, and found some "people" regarding my work in a condescending manner that I begun to be able to empathize with how these Australians feel.

When my mom came to visit Melbourne last year, she encountered the incident of a pedestrian (actually the correct term to describe the lady was "female vagrant") who shouted at the driver for not dropping her at the stop she wanted to get off.

How do you describe a "female vagrant"? It's basically someone who is dressed in rags, and is really dirty all over, without having showered for days, and her hair is all unkempt.

In a similar situation in Malaysia, most "female vagrants" or vagrants for that matter, would not have the gall to shout at anyone, as everyone would just avoid them, and not look too highly upon them.

My mentor teacher then related that I had been *condescending to one of the classroom assistants in the school. 


At the private girls college where I had gone to complete my studies, the teachers from the onset seemed to be very "friendly" and "nice". But that was where it all stopped.

In total, the mentor teacher finally informed me that "after much discussion", I as a student teacher was not "ready" nor "suitable" to be a teacher, and their school had to release me.

Ironically, I had been working in Sydney for the past 8 months after that as an Early Childhood Teacher in preschools, and under a number of employers.

In my opinion, I'd rather have completed my practicum in a place like Gold Coast where the schools had more exposure to asians. It may not be as asian-crowded as places like Sydney, nor Melbourne, but from what I have heard, the schools there are more understanding of the differences and the needs of international students.

And especially for Student Teachers who have to go to schools to complete their practicums. These are some of the issues that schools should clarify and have dialogue with to clear these things that may crop up.

Amazon Recommends...


Related Posts with Thumbnails