Diversity in teaching: ‘I’d like to be a role model for other children’

Jialimey Vuong wants to bring Chinese Vietnamese background to the classroom

Jialimey Vuong, a pupil in Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, dreams of becoming a science and maths teacher. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Jialimey Vuong, a pupil in Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, dreams of becoming a science and maths teacher. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

When Jialimey Vuong was in primary school, she remembers asking why there were no Chinese or Vietnamese teachers.

“I was curious about the world and I knew there were students from all sorts of backgrounds, but I had never seen anything other than an Irish teacher,” she says.

At a time when the classroom is growing more diverse – with more ethnicities and nationalities than ever before – the teaching profession remains overwhelmingly white, female and middle-class. Research indicates there is a similar lack of diversity at second-level.

For someone of any race or ethnic group, it’s very important to see them in teaching. Teachers are so influential

Latest figures show 92 per cent of our primary school teachers are young, white, middle class women.

Now, at the age of 17, and as a student of Chinese/Vietnamese ethnic background, she sees the importance of ensuring there is greater diversity in the teaching profession.

That’s why she’s determined to become a teacher herself.

“For someone of any race or ethnic group, it’s very important to see them in teaching. Teachers are so influential. Many of the role models in my life are teachers and I would love to be a role model for other children in future,” she says.

Marginalised backgrounds

That’s why she’s excited about Maynooth University’s “turn to teaching programme”, which aims to support more than 100 students from marginalised backgrounds to become teachers.

For Jialimey, the prospect of going to college is a big deal. She lives in a council estate in west Clondalkin, Dublin, where the proportion of students who progress to third level is lower than average. In addition, neither of her parents ever went to university.

I’ve a big passion for those subjects and I’d to be able to inspire other students in the same way as my teachers have inspired me

While one of her older siblings went to third-level, he ended up dropping out in order to work to support her family. As for Jialimey, she works on Saturdays and Sundays to help make ends meet.

In time, she dreams of becoming a science and maths teacher. The supports offered as part of the “turn to teaching programme” could help her to achieve it.

“I’ve a big passion for those subjects and I’d to be able to inspire other students in the same way as my teachers have inspired me – by injecting fun into learning,” she says.