New teachers’ program to boost language learning

October 4, 2011

Australian schoolteachers will be offered the opportunity to become ‘Asia advocates’ to boost language learning, thanks to a project based at Murdoch University.

ACICIS – the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies – has been awarded nearly $400,000 by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to develop the Indonesia from the ground up! program.

ACICIS Founder and Director Professor David T Hill, who is Chair of South East Asian Studies at Murdoch University, said the program would give teachers the chance to immerse themselves in Indonesian culture on a 12-day study tour to the country.

“We know that if students are to have the best chance of learning a language, language instruction needs to be supported across all curriculum areas, with the involvement of non-language teaching staff,” he said.

Indonesia from the ground up! is therefore designed for teachers of history, geography, arts, business, environment, media and citizenship, who will have little or no Indonesian language skills.

“These teachers will become ‘Asia advocates’ who can incorporate their new knowledge of Indonesia into their teaching and inspire their students. They will have a dramatic impact on the teaching of Asian studies and make a substantial contribution to supporting language learning.”

Indonesia is considered Australia’s most important regional relationship, and Indonesian is classified by the Commonwealth Department of Education as a nationally strategic language.

But opportunities for non-language teachers to learn about the country are limited – a situation the ACICIS project aims to address.

Professor Hill said: “We are planning a unique and innovative range of activities for participants, from visits to a community-led slum project in Jakarta and Islamic and state schools, seminars on environmental issues in Indonesia, and participation in post-natural disaster recovery projects.

“This will bring Indonesia out of the textbook and into teachers’ lived experience, which they will be able to share with their students.”

Two pilot tours, funded by the grant, are planned for July 2012 and January 2013. If these are successful, the program will be rolled out on a fee-paying basis.

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