Even more interesting than the RFDS, I thought, was the School of the Air,
Australia’s solution to long-distance education.
Through the use of two-way radios, School of the Air teachers conduct classes each day with
Australian children who are scattered far and wide across immense distances.
There are several Schools of the Air around Australia including one in
Alice Springs, the original home of the School.
This year, the Alice Springs school is teaching 130 students, some of whom
live over 600 miles away.
the help of a tutor (usually a parent), students complete their radio and
written lessons and then mail their homework in to their teacher on a regular basis.
No, I don't think an excuse like "The dog ate my homework" works too
well here in Australia, either -- although "The dingo ate my homework"
might. Anyway, when they’re not on the radio, teachers grade the written work and mail
it back, sometimes via RFDS planes, and at
least once a year, each teacher hops into a 4-wheel drive and heads across the
Outback to visit their
students. In addition, all the kids come into town a few times each year to meet the
other children in their radio “classroom,” which is the only time during the year
that some of the kids get to interact with other children… or visit a town.
Here's Lazy Harry
singing the Aussie classic, Home Among The Gum Trees.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
spent over an hour at the Alice Springs School of the Air, looking at the
displays and watching an
interesting video, which, towards the end, had one of the cutest things that
I've seen so far in Australia -- a dozen little "School of the Air"
kids singing Home Among the Gum Trees. Jeez, I still have
goose bumps and a smile from seeing that.
After the cute video, I watched through a glass window as an instructor
gave a foreign language lesson in Indonesian, which apparently is the most popular
foreign language in Australia -- equivalent, I guess, to learning Spanish or
French in America. And speaking of cute, I
also bumped into a very cute blonde woman tourist here from, amazingly enough, my
hometown of Portland, Oregon. Yeah, I would've asked for her number but she was
attached at the hip to a rather large, hairy boyfriend, so I refrained.
Still, it was nice (and rather strange) to hear an American accent again.
School of the Air is a cool concept and it's a great place to visit. It's also amazingly
successful, with most pupils landing in the top
10% of all students nationwide, and with a large percentage eventually going on to
college. For more information,
their website is at www.assoa.nt.edu.au.
Above left: Entrance to the Alice
Springs "School of the Air."
Above center: Inside the Visitor Center with student
projects on display. Is this place cute, or what?
Above right: School of the Air
teacher broadcasting a lesson in Indonesian.
Left: Some of the School of the Air students. These
kids are scattered
across the immense Outback.
Travels (2001-02) >
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Australia's "School of the Air"