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Australia's "School of the Air"

(Reprint from News: March 13, 2002)

March 13, 2002

 

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. 

 

With 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

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.

 

I 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.

 

Anyway, the 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.

 

2-2823_School_of_Air_Entrance.jpg (47744 bytes)    2-2824_SOA_Inside.jpg (53356 bytes)   2-2833_SOA_Lesson.jpg (42003 bytes)

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.

 

2-2840_Photos_of_Kids.jpg (54004 bytes)   Left:  Some of the School of the Air students.  These kids are scattered across the immense Outback.

 

 

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