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Kirwan State High School QLD

Engaging students with Asia

Located in Townsville, Kirwan State High School is Queensland’s largest high school, with an enrolment of 2,300 students. The student body includes a large indigenous population and numerous children of Australian Defence Force personnel based in the garrison city.

"We have a lot of students who needed to be encouraged. We believe that every student has the potential to achieve at a high level," says Deputy Principal, Kate Sheppard.

Getting started

The Kirwan State High School community is passionate about building an international mindset encompassing a whole school global perspective strategy. Teachers and the school community recognise that developing intercultural skills is a vital part of living in an increasingly globalised world—a world where children who are in Prep today will not retire until at least 2070.

"Before developing a whole school approach to Asia capability, we spent a lot of time unpacking what it meant to be internationally minded, what embedding studies of Asia in the curriculum meant, and what were our aspirations. We developed shared values and principles around that," Sheppard says.

While staff were open to new ideas, professional learning was needed to build their knowledge and skills to teach about Asia. Thus began a process of working with mentors and organisations such as the AEF to build capacity in the staff.

"Critical to our success has been engaging experts to help build shared understanding of our core beliefs," says Sheppard.

Engaging Year 8 students

One successful Asia-focused initiative is the 8s for Change service learning programme for Year 8 students. The programme has produced outstanding results from 100 percent of the school’s 470 Year 8 students.

Students were engaged in doing something for others through service learning. One teacher with a very disengaged class, decided after visiting an orphanage in Vietnam, to introduce a project to help the orphanage. This project was aligned to a Study of Society & Environment unit investigating millennium development goals.


The response to the 8s for Change programme has been greater than expected with every student submitting assignments. The pass rate rose to 97 percent of the entire year with A level results increasing by 15 percent. Some of the least engaged students became motivated, even those within classes where the teachers were struggling to build interest.

The programme expanded to include China and Taiwan and is integrated with ICT studies. A dedicated website and a showcase for local primary schools has been established.

Students’ awareness of Asia and of intercultural similarities and differences has increased. Similarly, students have embraced the notion of being global citizens and of taking responsibility globally.

Sheppard says while the outcomes of the 8s for Change programme have been enormous for students, staff have also benefited.

"One of the biggest rewards has been for staff. Sixty percent of our staff are in the first three years of their teaching careers. We have 30 beginning teachers every year," says Sheppard. "The 8s for Change project has been very powerful for them."

The Year 8 programme has engaged students and sewn the seeds for Asia capability across the school.

Principal, John Livingston, participated in the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia (L21CS) professional learning programme.


Image: Kirwan State High School logo – Kirwan State High School

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