Critical English Online

English in the multicultural classroom

Although New Zealand is sometimes characterised as a national of immigrants its identity as a linguistically diverse country is a relatively recent occurrence. Minority ethnic groups: Dalmations, Chinese, Indians, Dutch, Bohemians, Poles and others were expected to assimilate. The sheer size of Pacific Island migrations (dating back to the 1950s) and more recent migrations from a number of Asian and other non-English speaking) countries has produced a kind of non-English speaking "critical mass" which means that English teachers can no longer ignore (should they want to) the diversity of cultural backgrounds that characterises many New Zealand classrooms.

One issue for New Zealand English/language teachers has, then, been the increased presence of NESB students in their classrooms. Some have responded to this challenge by undergoing training in what is sometimes called "Language Across the Curriculum" (or "Learning Through Language") pedagogies. Others have been challenged to be more inclusive in their selection of texts and decisions on unit focii.

English in Aotearoa 38 (September, 1999) was an issue devoted to ESOL (English for Students of Other Languages). Helen Nicholls in her introduction to this issue, "Other windows on the world – different views of teaching and learning English" provides a context for the issue and the ensuing articles provide perspectives from a range of practitioners on the issue of responding to the needs of NESB students. For articles in English in Aotearoa dealing with English and ESOL, check out EIA Index.

An essential site, especially for New Zealand-based English/literacy teachers, is the NESB Community site. The site provides links to professional reading, access to case studies, examples of individual educational plans (IEPs) and school-based programmes, classroom activities oriented to ESOL students and much more.