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Nicholas sets heart on boosting TSI literacy levels

Nicholas sets heart on boosting TSI literacy levels

Published:01 December 2017

CQUniversity Education (Primary) student Nicholas Sailor.

Bundaberg’s Nicholas Sailor is aptly named. He has the wind in his sails and the goal of boosting Torres Strait Islander literacy levels in his sights.

It was not always such a vivid vision.

“When I was in school I did not necessarily know what the future would hold, although I did have a focus on cabinet-making,” Nicholas says.

“With a local flooding impacting my passion at the time, I chose a different path and I worked for five years as a teacher aide in a special school, working with children with disabilities and impairments.

“This sparked my interest in education and I enrolled in the STEPS preparatory program at CQUniversity Bundaberg.”

Nicholas says that, thanks to STEPS being such a great ‘stepping stone’, he immediately loved the atmosphere at university felt supported in his studies.

He has just completed the first year of his Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree but is not resting on his laurels.

“With mentorship from Education lecturer Dr Robert Vanderburg, I was able to attend a conference in Adelaide for undergraduate researchers,” Nicholas says.

“This conference not only gave me the chance to present an abstract about proposed PhD research into how to improve literacy rates among Torres Strait Islander people … it also gave me the chance to network with some brilliant minds around the country.”

Nicholas, aged 23, has links to Thursday Island on his father’s side of the family and believes his cultural background will help him understand the needs of Torres Strait Islander students.

He recently completed a classroom placement at St Luke’s Anglican School in Bundaberg and appreciated the chance to experience the independent schools’ system.

“I believe it is good to have some life experience and personal growth before coming to university,” Nicholas says.

“In my case being a mature age entrant to university helped me understand that my passion lies in the field of Education.”

Nicholas says his discussions with Dr Vanderburg have led him to delve further and research the issue of literacy.

"I discovered that there was little data collected on the literacy of Torres Strait Islanders but there was data showing that Indigenous students have below-average literacy results compared to non-Indigenous students.

"When I am finished my Bachelor of Education degree, I would like to go to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and observe the educational environment up there.

"Some of the data from the NAPLAN results showed that some Torres Strait schools are above-average in literacy. I can’t exactly give a reason as to why that is but I wish to find out through research."