Open Access College, School of the Air SA
The School of the Air, based out of Port Augusta in South Australia, is a campus of the South Australian government's Open Access College. It has a current enrolment of approximately 32 students who live in remote and isolated communities throughout the state, most of whom are on sheep and cattle stations. A further 10 students from less remote areas are enrolled in the school because, for one reason or another, they are unable to access their education in a mainstream setting. Following a survey of its community, the school has been implementing Japanese as a second language for the past two years with the intent of extending this into studies of Asia across all learning areas over time.
In introducing the learning of Japanese, the school has utilised the language teachers from the Open Access College and must use online study as the mode of delivery. The school views this change to Japanese as being highly successful with only a minority of its students not learning an Asian language. A clear success factor was the input from the far-spread and traditionally conservative community when asked for their views. The school sees Japanese language learning as a vehicle to raise awareness of Asia and to encourage teachers to plan for studies of Asia in their particular learning areas, with an authentic intent to grow students' awareness of the world they live in and Australia's place in the Asia region.
The school leaders have encouraged staff, particularly the early career staff, to include their stories and experiences of Asian culture, gained through their various travels and networks, into their lesson plans. These teachers are passionate and knowledgeable about their interactions, pursuits and experiences. They are encouraged to share their travel photographs and collectibles with their students. They have ready access to a wide range of learning resources, with the school making extensive use of the resources available through AEF and Global Education websites. The contribution of new staff members to the school to the Asia capability agenda is seen as quite an unexpected outcome.
When staff members develop curriculum materials through the Moodle e-learning application they are keen to share this with others and these then become a rich repository of learning resources that can be used or adapted by others. Staff enthusiasm to access creative and engaging resources has contributed to Asia capability across the school and is seen as a significant driver. A learning resource sharing opportunity is now built into all staff meetings.
The school does not see distance as a barrier to success as it has enjoyed many years of successful involvement in distance learning. However, one barrier to embedding studies of Asia across the curriculum – the lack of take-up by all staff – is still being addressed. The school aims to ensure that the inclusion of deep learning about Asia into the curriculum becomes less incidental over time.
Community members are routinely informed about the school's initiatives via a weekly online school assembly, where staff, students and parent/carers are all involved. The school sees its partnership with its community, although spread out over a vast state, as crucial to establishing and sustaining an Asia capability focus.
Open Access College – School of the Air is now seeking a sister school relationship with a Japanese school and is establishing relationships with other distance education providers within Australia.
Principal Polly Smart participated in the AEF study programme: Introduction to Japan, offering a unique personal and professional experience of the country. In this programme, participants explored Japan's rich history with visits to places of historical and religious significance and were able to delve into Japan's popular culture through workshops on Manga comics.