🥇Uniservitate Award 2022 winning experience

SUMMARY

Teacher training and cultural immersion programme in rural primary schools in the Solomon Islands, an archipelago a few kilometres away from Australia

Undergraduate students from the School of Education at the Australian Catholic University travel annually to teach in rural primary schools in the Solomon Islands. Around 25 % of its population is illiterate, and most schools and students lack adequate training material. However, there is a rich local culture transmitted from generation to generation.

Every year since 2009, the ACU National School of Education has carried out the international community engagement programme, with the participation of undergraduates and professors who take a month-long cultural immersion and exchange trip.

During four weeks, the Australian students (future teachers) live with the locals, learn their language (Pijin) and do activities with children comparing the local and Australian cultures. They also work with the host teachers from three primary schools and parents on sharing experiences, methods and teaching materials to facilitate learning English, regional dialects and the curriculum content of basic primary education. The local teachers also receive professional training to develop skills related to ICTs and other topics of interest.

As a result of this immersion and cultural exchange experience, the Australian students come into contact with realities of inequity and social injustice in one of the poorest areas of the archipelago. In addition, they reflect upon the Social Doctrine of the Church (DSI) in the light of the principles of solidarity, human dignity, and work together for the common good. They also learn to work with diversity, enabling them to take proactive actions of global citizenship, exercising the values of solidarity with the Pacific’s closest neighbours. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they designed and delivered teaching materials for an online literacy and cultural exchange programme. During the online meetings, 6th-grade children from Bishop Epalle Catholic School (BECS) were co-authors of a children’s book with classic Australian stories adaptations to the local culture, written in English and Pijin. The stories were presented online.

These community-based trainings were organized in partnership with the Education Office of the Archdiocese of Honiara (Solomon Islands). The Australian Government also sponsored programme providing travel funding for professors and undergraduates, 42 notebooks and a networked computer room with internet for one of the partner schools.  

Based on the results of this experience, research shows that graduate students who were part of this programme have improved skills and confidence in dealing with linguistic and cultural diversity in their Australian classrooms.

DATA SHEET

  • Name: The Solomon Islands teacher education immersion programme in primary schools.

  • Region: Asia & Oceania

  • Country: Australia

  • University: Australian Catholic University (ACU)

  • Area or School involved: International Community Engagement Programme, National School of Education, Faculty of Education and the Arts.

  • Theme: Education

  • Place of implementation: Solomon Islands schools

  • Responsible for the experience: Mellita Jones, Renata Cinelli and Maria Gallangher

PLACE OF IMPLEMENTATION