'80 pc of the young people in W Australia attend govt schools'

Interview

Andre Baronie

His eyes crinkle up in a welcoming smile when I sit down to interview him.  Andre Baronie, Head of Department of Literature in the Darling Range Sports College in Forrestfield, Perth, Western Australia, is passing through Bangalore on his way to a holiday in Goa.

Originally from Rangoon, Burma, Baronie was born in Allahabad to where his parents had fled, during the Burma war of 1945. They made their way to Australia later in 1966 after returning to Burma, where Baronie had his formal education with the French Christian Brothers and later completed and honours degree with the Rangoon University in Literature. In Australia, Baronie upgraded his skills with a Bachelor of Education at the University of West Australia.

Baronie is a school teacher in Perth in West Australia and the racial attacks on students happening in Australia are not in schools, but on University students in Melbourne.

Where did you begin your career as a teacher?

I began teaching English in Wongan Hills, a country school, as I wanted to learn about the education system in Australia. We have seven years of primary school and five years of high school and I was interested in the primary segment.

When did you become Head of Department (HOD)?

I became HOD after eight years into my career in 1976 and have been HOD ever since. At the moment I am HOD of the Literature department of the Darling Range Sports College in Forrestfield, Perth, West Australia. I love classroom teaching and as HOD I manage upto ten staff in the department.

I am in-charge of ensuring the highest standards of curriculum delivery. The comparability of assessment of our teachers is that they match state standards. We have a strict system of regular assessment of teachers which is comparable throughout the state. So finally the certificate we give our students, has credence throughout the country.

I am also incharge of implementing new programmes and systems, besides managing student behaviour in my department. At the moment I take three classes and administer my department for the rest of the day.  

Give us an insight into the Australian system of schooling?

We have both the public and private schools in Australia. I have always taught the government syllabus in public schools which are practically free for the students. All the facilities of these schools are top-of-the-line with highly qualified staff which can compare favourably with any private school.

Eighty percent of young people in Western Australia attend government schools and only twenty percent go to private schools. The private schools are both Christian and non-Christian which can include Islamic and Montessori school systems as well.
An interesting point for your readers in the field of education maybe, the fact that all State School teachers, belong to a State School Teachers Union. This has a powerful influence with regard to teachers  rights and teaching conditions. As a union they negotiate with the government for the best remuneration possible in return for their work.

Since 1975 there are a maximum of only 32 students in classes  one to ten and twenty-five in Years eleven and twelve. If the classes are practical like Home Economics, Wood work, Metal work etc. then the numbers in a class are down to sixteen.  

Could you tell us about the quality of staff that you employ? Where do they originate from?

For the last five to ten years we have employed a significant number of teachers from India, Malaysia, the US and the UK. This is because the subjects we offer our students lay great emphasis on future career opportunities in the academic, business or in the field of trade.

It is a broad freeranging curriculum where they specialise in year 11-12. Subjects on offer are Physics, Chemistry, Math, Science, and in Arts: History, Geography, Law and Economics. The practical curriculum is Home Economics, Woodwork, Metal work and Jewellery making, besides Auto Mechanics.

In my school which is a sports specialist school we offer specialised sports coaching by state level coaches in Net ball, Soccer, Australian rule football, Cricket and Swimming.
We also look after the pastoral care of the students with counsellors, chaplains and aboriginal assistants. We therefore look after the holistic needs of all our students.

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