So you’ve decided that it’s time for your child to start enjoying the perks of being a resident of Australia. This could be a very wise move, especially if your child is still young and still finds it easy to adapt to new things.
Studying in Australia
The educational system in Australia is considered as one of the best in the world, ranking higher than the US. Of course, the rules that you would have to follow in sending your child to school would also vary depending on the school enrolment zone or catchment zone. Your child’s ability to enrol would depend on the visa you hold, so it’s best to find out everything you can as early as possible.
Of course, should your child be eligible to enrol, there are so many things that they would have to get used to, changes that are definitely better than the learning conditions that they are used to in the Philippines, especially if they came from the public school system.
In the Philippines, students are often crammed inside a single classroom, with only one teacher facilitating. Only the more expensive private schools have a limited number of kids inside each class, with teaching assistants helping out in ensuring that all the kids are getting the most out of each class.
In Australia, it is normal to have only a few kids per class, especially for the primary years. There is so much focus on giving each child the attention they need to learn, something that is seen in the way each class is controlled. There are teaching assistants as well in the case of larger classes.
You can choose whether you would like to send your child to a government school, a Catholic or other faith-based schools, or to a private learning institution.
Independent Private Schools
Government schools would often have very strict enrolment zones in place. This can be a bit of a problem if you live in highly populated areas like Sydney, especially if the schools you are trying to enrol your child into are already full.
In this case, your child can then enrol into an out-of-zone school, which can still be a bit of a challenge. The school would have to wait for those within their catchment zone to enrol first before letting your child get in ONLY if there’s still a spot left. Think of it as a fully-booked plane that you’re trying to get onto, where your child will be treated as a chance passenger.
A lot of temporary visa holders choose this option because they are less picky when it comes to your visa type. They do have very strict parish post codes in place however, which work the same way as catchment zones. Tuition fees are also enormous, sometimes reaching up to $30,000 or more each year.
Enrolment zones are not a concern when it comes to independent private schools. However, they also have very long wait lists. They are also more expensive than any other option you may have.
Knowing that your child is also coming from the Philippines, there are English proficiency requirements in place if they will be enrolling from Year 6 onwards. Those in Kindy up to Year 5 do not have language requirements, so these are the best years for them to brush up on their English.
There are English centres where your child could take extensive English classes to help them become more proficient in the language. Knowing that the Philippines is an English-speaking country however, there is a huge chance that language would not be too much of a problem.
Helping Your Child Adjust
Moving is always a huge challenge for kids because they would need to make a lot of adjustments. Add to that the fact that they would have to get to know an entirely new culture altogether, and the move could become too much for your child.
This is why it is extremely important for your child to have you as their primary support system.
How can you help your child adjust to a new school and to a new environment?
Prepare your child even before they leave the Philippines.
Make the move long before the school term starts.
Try day care centres first.
Have an open communication with the teacher.
Don’t look agitated or scared.
Create a healthy routine.
Spend weekends doing something fun.
The moment you start planning to bring your child with you to Australia, start preparing them mentally and emotionally. Talk about points of interest that you can visit once you’re there and do research about things that Australian kids his or her age are usually interested in to give them a chance to compare the similarities and the differences.
Give your child enough time to become more familiar with their surroundings before sending them straight to school. The idea of pushing them into a lot of new things all at once could become overwhelming for them and could send their emotions spiralling. Give them the chance to take things in a little slowly so that the adjustment could be more seamless for them.
If your child is still young, try sending them to day care first. This would allow them to make new friends and adjust to the idea of having kids from other cultures around them first. Gaining new friends at this age should also give them the confidence they need to get ready for a bigger school.
Try to keep a steady flow of communication with the teacher. Find out what challenges they seem to be struggling with and try to casually mention this so that they would open up a bit more about it. The teacher would also be able to tell you about new friends that they hang out with. Encourage your child by setting playdates or trips to the mall with their new peers. Who knows? You and their parents may hit it off too, giving you a whole new set of friends in the process as well.
It’s normal for any parent to feel agitated about the first few days of school, especially if it’s a new environment for your child. Will she fit in? Will he make new friends? Will other kids bully her? Will they think he’s weird?
Having all these questions running through your mind would often show up in the way you act and the way you talk, sending a negative vibe to your child. Stay calm and remember that the moment you show your panic, your child may feel less confident about stepping into that school as well. Show your child that you’re confident about what they can achieve and try to save your worries for when you are alone.
Just because you’re making the adjustment stage easier on your child does not mean giving in to their every whim. You would have to be even more careful about their routine now more than ever because this would also help them adjust more effectively. Bedtimes, for example, would have to be strict because waking up with very little sleep in the morning will make them less friendly and cooperative in school.
Try to neutralize your child’s agitation by spending your extra time doing something fun with them. You can go out and explore parks, museums, and other places of interest, or try out one restaurant after another. Spend time exploring the outback and experience things that you do not get to do in the Philippines.
Adjusting to a new school environment could be hard on your child, but you play a huge role in making this easier and more seamless for them. Allow them to enjoy the move by showing them all the good reasons why you made this life-changing decision.
Special thanks to Pauline Yu for the main image.