Kathe Kirby, Director, Asia Education Foundation
Image: Secondary School Principals in Papua New Guinea selected to be part of the inaugural PNGAusConnect: Secondary School Initiative.
When Australians remember the First World War they think of the landing at Gallipoli. When they think of the Second World War the word ‘Kokoda’ looms large and has captured our imagination.
Each year, over five thousand Australians, including 100’s of school students from schools across the country, take on the mentally and physically challenging task of Kokoda. They walk in the footsteps of the 56,000 Australian soldiers and thousands of Papua New Guineans who worked together to protect our country in 1942.
“We want our kids to dream, to shift their thinking about what they are capable of” said a Sydney school when asked about their Kokoda program.
The world is changing at a rapid pace and young people in Australia and Papua New Guinea now need a global mindset and skill set to succeed.
To achieve this, there are significant challenges for Papua New Guinean students and teachers. For students, less than half currently proceed to secondary education and for teachers and principals there is little access to professional learning.
However, there is high aspiration among PNG’s educators to build innovation, creativity and critical thinking in education practice.
And we all know that STEM education is critical to the future of young Australians and Papua New Guineans.
STEM can develop solutions to global challenges such as sustainability. We see a rich opportunity for Australian students to collaborate with young Papua New Guineans to find cross-disciplinary approaches that bring together Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as well as critical and creative thinking, empathy and ethics to empower our young people to create the world we all need.
In response, this year AEF is proud to support the Australian Government and Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea to deliver the new PNGAusConnect: Secondary School Initiative to continue to strengthen our bonds with our nearest neighbor and shift our students thinking about their world.
In an Australian first, this fully funded initiative will support Australian secondary schools to form school partnerships with some of the highest performing secondary schools in Papua New Guinea. PNGAusConnect offers a suite of professional learning including reciprocal in-country visits and interactive teacher and student workshops with a focus on STEM, English and student agency and leadership.
Image: Secondary School Principals in Papua New Guinea selected to be part of the inaugural PNGAusConnect: Secondary School Initiative taking part in the pre-program intensive learning seminar.
PNG teacher, Benjamin Jamurang, summed up the value of his time in an Australian school in 2018: “I learnt about teaching strategies, e-learning, the value of community engagement and about multicultural Australia and building empathy.”
This new secondary school partnership initiative between Australia and Papua New Guinea provides a unique opportunity for us to work together, in the spirit of Kokoda, to build a thriving and shared future in our part of the world.
For more information and to express your interest in joining PNGAusConnect, please visit PNGAusConnect: Secondary School Initiative.
Applications close on 11 June.