Joining a new school can be a challenge. Making new friends, getting used to new teachers and language barriers can make things tricky. Because of this, the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program at Australian International School (AIS) aims to develop practical reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of students as quickly as possible so they can confidently and proficiently join mainstream classes.
As a leading international school, each of the school's subjects is taught in English. That means students who are not native speakers must take a language assessment upon enrolment. Those students who need additional support to access regular classes join the school’s Intensive English Language Program (IELP) or afternoon EAL classes.
Garry Seabrook, the EAL program coordinator at AIS, has been teaching the subject for nearly 20 years and holds a Master's degree in EAL and a Doctorate in Philosophy. He is joined by eight staff members who are all committed to helping students develop the necessary language skills to prosper in all their subjects. Beyond the attention each teacher pays to personalizing the coursework, the program also uses the Cambridge curriculum. This involves a clear and accessible progression in coordination with the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) that all students prepare for and take as part of their AIS education in Year 11. This then leads to the IB Diploma Program in Years 12 and 13, which is the gateway to the world's leading universities.
The EAL program benefits from small class sizes and a high teacher-to-student ratio so individuals receive as much support as possible. “In Primary, the presence of support teachers allows for differentiation in class and a lot of practice,” Mr Seabrook explained. He added that the experienced teachers create a comfortable environment that encourages students to ask the questions and make the mistakes that are necessary to learn.
Language fluency involves far more than just being able to survive in formal settings. While AIS’s EAL program uses materials relevant to regular coursework, it also prepares students for varied and nuanced social interactions as well by stressing collaboration with classmates and building relationships. Mr Seabrook also emphasized the value of English books, age-appropriate television shows and games that reinforce the idea that learning a new language can be fun and useful outside of the classroom.
Parents have an important role in the EAL program by encouraging English-based activities at home. Mr Seabrook noted that simply creating as many opportunities to encounter English by putting post-it notes on household objects or arranging casual visits with English-speaking friends and relatives can have a large impact. Moreover, teachers give parents regular progress reports so that they can take an active role in their children’s development.
AIS’s world-class education prepares students to excel in their future endeavors all around the world once they are supported by English fluency. One of the school’s many advantages is its diverse student body which means many will arrive with limited English proficiency. The EAL program is designed exactly for this scenario so learners not only succeed in classes but develop language skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Find out more about the EAL program with Dr. Garry Seabrook