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Overseas Study Program to Asia report

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Building teacher capacity through core school improvements

As a result of their participation in the Overseas Study Program, principals and other school leaders have:

  • Led and facilitated through teams a wide range of school improvement initiatives, including professional learning, that built sustainable change, teacher capacity and leadership skills in Overseas Study Program participants
  • Provided opportunities for teachers, students and parents to have international experiences, learn about an Asian country and culture and benefit from sister school relationships
  • Applied, and expected others to apply, the learning gleaned from high performing systems in Asia
  • Worked across networks and clusters to support internationalisation, curriculum and languages programs and strategies
  • Used improved intercultural understanding to better provide for their schools' Asian Australian student and parent groups, and to better support cultural understanding among less culturally diverse Australian communities when advocating for or proposing change.

Increased awareness

A significant outcome of the Overseas Study Program was increased participant's awareness of the importance of Asia to students' futures, greater interest in Asia, particularly in the country of the study program and sister school, and greater willingness to engage in activities that would develop an international mindset or intercultural understanding.

Principals worked closely with school councils, parent groups and local community groups to build understanding and demand for Asia literacy. The Overseas Study Program helped principals and other leaders with the first step in convincing school staff, leadership teams and communities of 'the need' and 'the value' – in winning 'hearts and minds'. Other significant influences mentioned were the Leading 21st Century Schools Program and AusVELS. However, participants say that the Overseas Study Program 'breathed life' into the process of convincing people because those involved in the program were so passionate and because the connections with Asia made it 'real'.

The principal of Maffra Secondary College continued ongoing connections with a local cluster of schools begun when they all undertook Leading 21st Century Schools Programs. After the Overseas Study Program she worked with one of the primary schools to introduce Mandarin. She says the experience of having been to China was an important enabler in raising awareness and building demand within the local cluster and school community.

Distributed leadership

Principals did not work alone; they established roles and teams within schools with responsibility for internationalisation, Asia literacy and sister school relationships. They usually allocated a leadership role to teachers who participated in the Overseas Study Program.

The Overseas Study Program gave teachers the opportunity to take higher levels of responsibility and to lead. They spoke of the inspiration and drive they brought to their roles. Teachers were skilled and enthusiastic advocates, initiators and leaders of change in their schools.

The assistant principal of Canterbury Primary School led change by supporting teachers' engagement with the sister school in teacher projects and by developing their understanding of the importance of Asia literacy throughout the curriculum.

Learning from high performing systems

The focus of leaders' actions upon returning to school from the Singapore School Leaders Studies Program and the China (Shanghai) programs where they were familiarised with aspects of high performing education systems, was on performance and development of teachers, building teacher capacity through mentoring, coaching and feedback programs, establishing higher expectations for students, and instructional leadership practices.

The principal of John Monash Science School says the biggest change was moving the school from a local perspective to an international perspective and what a high quality science education means. Linking with like schools has been an important part of the process.

Intercultural understanding

Nearly three quarters of principals and teachers thought that as a result of their schools' participation in the Overseas Study Program, the intercultural understanding of parents had been strengthened.

Strengthened intercultural understanding of Overseas Study Program principals and teachers as a result of their participation in the program influenced how they communicated with parents from Asian cultures and their ability to successfully link them into the school. It also strengthened communications with less culturally diverse communities when building demand for Asia literacy, languages and internationalisation.

Strengthened intercultural understanding in principals impacted on their awareness of the needs of staff, students, parents and communities, and influenced the policies, programs and structures they introduced and promoted. Strengthened intercultural understanding also enabled these leadership capacities to be developed among Overseas Study Program teachers who had responsibility for leading change and working with teams.

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