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Empowering Women Leaders: Insights from the Women in School Leadership Program's India Immersion Experience

by Emeline Gillingham | Nov 30, 2023

Victorian participants of the Women in School Leadership (WISL) Program have successfully completed a two-week professional learning immersion experience in India, marking the second offshore delivery by Asia Education Foundation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Their insights and reflections are an inspiration to all aspiring women leaders in education.

“Spending time with vocational educational leaders through the 2023 Women in School Leadership Program has left me inspired and energised. What I thought was going to be a Venn diagram exploration of the similarities and differences between the Australian and Indian education systems, soon revealed itself to be an overlapping circle, as we explored the deep commonalities we share as we strive to improve the academic and personal and social outcomes for the children entrusted in our care. Central to my experience in India was a term introduced to me by Dr Asha Prabhakar, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning One Earth, One Family, One Future. Through acknowledging our unity, we are able to accept our global responsibility and develop a generation of individuals who become active drivers of social change; not afraid to lend their voice to the issues currently being faced by humanity. “
- Tania Sorbello, Principal, Fitzroy North Primary School (Victoria)



Bringing together 24 women school leaders from Victoria and Delhi, the WISL 2023-24 program is a remarkable initiative by the Victorian Department of Education aimed at promoting collaboration and mutual learning. By enhancing engagement between Victorian and Indian schools, this program is contributing towards fostering a brighter and more connected future between Victoria and India, in line with Victoria’s India Strategy: Our Shared Future. 

“The [Victorian] schools [selected to participate] represent the department's four major regions, including metropolitan and regional areas which will showcase the breadth of experience Victoria's educators have to share.”
- Victorian Department of Education


“The connection from my Indian families and children was incredible and continues to be every day. The kids were so excited to see me back and asked all about where I went, what I saw. Families still ask me about my trip, and I can see we all feel so much more connected. Thank you for facilitating this.”
- Ann Turner-Calleri, Principal, Edgars Creek Primary School


Running from August 2023 to May 2024, the program is supporting school leaders to engage in an online professional learning program as well as reciprocal immersion experiences in India and Victoria, under the theme ‘Leading schools for social change’, with a focus on learning and wellbeing.

Tania Sorbello, Principal at Fitzroy North Primary School (Victoria) and Asha Prabhakar, Principal at Bal Bharati Public School, Noida (India) have been paired as part of the program and Tania spent three days at Asha’s school during the India Immersion experience.

“During her visit [Tania] observed the best practices of the school and witnessed classroom proceedings to understand diversity and inclusion, student centred-learning, creative and experiential pedagogy, and assessment. She had rich discussions to further her understanding of our school culture of wellbeing and learning. The session [on trauma] left a lasting positive impression, highlighting my students' maturity and dedication to understanding and addressing trauma. Ms Tania Sorbello brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the session. Her insights resonated with students, providing them with a deeper understanding of the subject. Through her expertise, she illuminated the nuances of this crucial topic. This exchange of perspectives and experiences was a valuable learning opportunity for all involved.”
- Asha Prabhakar, Principal, Bal Bharati Public School, Noida (India)


In addition to the professional immersion in Indian schools, one of the highlights of the program so far is the strong network of inspiring women school leaders that it has created.

“What a wonderful opportunity to develop a deep connection with educators and celebrate the relationship between the Australian and Indian education systems. Such an honour to share two weeks with inspirational educators as part of the Women in School Leadership program.”
- Tania Sorbello, Principal, Fitzroy North Primary School (Victoria)


In between the remaining online workshops and the reciprocal Victoria Immersion experience in May 2024, Victorian and Indian school leaders will continue to collaborate on an action research project and work together using a community of practice model. They will also take part in coaching sessions led by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. 

“This program has been wonderful. Overall, [the India Immersion] was an excellent learning experience and I can't wait to continue my partnership with Asha. I would highly recommend the program and would do it again in a heartbeat!”
- Tania Sorbello, Principal, Fitzroy North Primary School (Victoria)


In a message to Victorian school leaders, Asha, who is also the Chair of the National Progressive Schools’ Conference, one of AEF’s Indian partners for this program, wrote:

“Please accept our heartfelt gratitude for being with us this week and for making all our days so special with your presence, your warmth and your appreciation. You added a special sparkle with your arrival in all our respective NPSC Schools. May this beautiful coming together of the India-Australia family forge new bonds of togetherness and collaboration. Looking forward to more excitement ahead and wishing you the best always...”
- Asha Prabhakar, Principal, Bal Bharati Public School, Noida (India)


The Women in School Leadership (WISL) Program is an initiative by the Victorian Department of Education, Victoria, developed and delivered by Asia Education Foundation in partnership with the Australia India Institute and Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne in Australia, and the National Progressive Schools’ Conference and O.P. Jindal Global University in India.

Learn more about the WISL program here and follow #WISLVicIndia on social media for program updates.

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