Refugee student scores top marks for uni entry

BETHANY HIATT EDUCATION EDITOR,

The West Australian Updated December 30, 2011, 3:00 am

Iranian refugee Arash ArabshahiAn Iranian refugee who started school in Australia just three years ago speaking almost no English was among 15 WA students to achieve the highest possible university admission rank of 99.95.

Arash Arabshahi, 19, who worked nights at a fast-food outlet so he could buy textbooks, attended the intensive English centre at Cyril Jackson Senior Campus for a year before going on to complete Years 11 and 12.

Pushing him every step of the way was older brother Amir, 20, who also did Year 12 this year and achieved a stellar Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of 97.05.

After leaving Iran, the brothers spent four years in Turkey with their mother Maasoumeh Tanabi before being accepted into Australia. They live in Bentley.

Ms Tanabi, who lectured in nursing in Iran, said they had to flee because of her involvement in human rights activities. She was reluctant to give details.

The boys’ father, a teacher, remained in Iran.

Arash said he was “really happy” when he found out his results at 12.30am yesterday because he had not expected to do so well.

He studied two maths courses, physics, chemistry and English and said it had been difficult to adapt to learning in a new language and education system.

“But I think with hard work you can do anything,” he said.

The brothers hope to study medicine at the University of WA.

Cyril Jackson principal Karen Woods said Arash had been dux of the school and his perfect score was an amazing achievement.

“What we find with our refugee students is they are highly aspirational and they work very hard,” she said.

“And they’re very interested in the caring professions because they want to give back.”

Among other students to achieve a perfect ATAR was Rossmoyne Senior High School’s Norris Lan, who plans to study law, and Christ Church Grammar School’s Harald Breidhal

Kalamunda Senior High School student Marisa Duong, on holiday overseas, also overcame great odds to make the top 15.

The international student arrived from Vietnam four years ago with only a basic grasp of English but went on to become dux of her school. She hopes to become a biomedical engineer.

Also holidaying overseas is St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School student Thisuri Jayawardena, who continued a family tradition of academic excellence by achieving the top rank.
Her brother Binu won the Beazley medal as top student in 2008.

Source

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