AS AN international student who relocated to the UK at the age of nine, I was filled with excitement and curiosity about exploring a new country and making new friends. However, my transition into the British education system from Hyderabad in India where I studied in a reputed public school proved to be a challenging experience. Reflecting on my journey and based on a survey among 50 Indian immigrant students across the UK, I have identified several key issues that parents and schools should address to support these children.
From a parent’s perspective, it is crucial to put more thought and effort into helping children adapt to the new environment rather than simply instructing them to adjust and remain calm. Parents should consider living in areas where there are other immigrant children, choose schools with similar criteria, and create opportunities for their children to meet and socialise with peers from similar backgrounds. These measures can help in achieving easier transition and ensure that children feel more connected to their new surroundings.
Schools, too, have a vital role to play in supporting Indian immigrant students. Language barriers emerge as a common challenge, with approximately 45 per cent of respondents indicating that language difficulties affected their academic performance and understanding of the curriculum. It is essential for schools to provide language support through English language classes, peer assistance and access to bilingual resources like dictionaries.
Cultural differences also pose significant obstacles, as over 60 per cent of respondents reported struggling to adapt to the British education system and culture. Schools can address this by offering orientation programs, cultural exchange activities, and support networks that help students feel more integrated and comfortable in their new environment.
Furthermore, the survey revealed instances of discrimination and racism, with students reporting experiences of racial slurs, bullying, and prejudice. Schools must enforce zero-tolerance policies towards such conduct and provide necessary support systems, including counselling services, peer support and mentorship programmes.
To alleviate the pressure to conform, schools can establish mentorship programmes where immigrant children are paired with students or staff members who can guide them through the transition process. This student-buddying approach can help ease the adjustment and foster connections.
Additionally, 20 per cent of the students surveyed expressed discomfort in interacting with teaching staff who lacked understanding of their cultural background. To address this issue, schools should strive for diversity among their teaching staff, provide cultural training for existing teachers, and encourage students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in teaching.
Lastly, schools should create opportunities for Indian immigrant children to learn about and celebrate their culture. Cultural events, language classes, and the promotion of Indian history and literature can foster pride in their heritage and contribute to a more inclusive school environment.
In conclusion, addressing the challenges faced by Indian immigrant children in UK schools requires a collaborative effort involving school authorities, teachers, parents, and the wider community. By implementing the aforementioned measures, schools can create a welcoming and inclusive environment where all students, regardless of their background, can thrive and reach their full potential. It is crucial to recognise and support the unique experiences of these students as they navigate their educational journey in a new country.
The author is a year 9 student at Palmer catholic school, London.