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Australia

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Radio schools
Since Australia is such a vast continent, for some children living in isolated areas, and in the outback, it’s not possible for them to actually get in to school.

In order to ensure they don’t miss out on their education, they rely on an interesting alternative – a teacher over the radio. School of the Air was the idea of Adelaide Miethke, an Adelaide schoolteacher. She suggested using the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s radio network for education purposes.

The first lesson was broadcast in 1950, and the service has continued to expand to 12 Schools of the Air.

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Distance learning
The teachers use HF (high frequency) radio to provide lessons. This accompanies correspondence lessons that the teachers send to their students through the mail, which the students work on at home for 5 to 6 hours a day.

Group lessons on the radio last for about half an hour a day, with groups tending to be around 8 to 18 students.

In many ways, it works just like a ‘normal’ classroom – the teacher explains a point, asks questions, and different students give their responses. But in this ‘classroom’, each participant could be several thousand kilometres apart!

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Outback advantage
The students have both advantages and disadvantages over their town-dwelling peers. Whilst they don’t get much face-to-face interaction with other young people, they grow up with access to far more space and freedom than other youngsters.

They learn all about the techniques for surviving in a potentially hostile environment, important farming and animal husbandry techniques, and many also learn Aboriginal lore and tradition.

The School of the Air adds to this broader education, ensuring that young people living in the Outback are able to relate to the outside world on an equal footing.

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Into the future…
The first School of the Air was that in Alice Springs, which now covers an area of over 1 million square kilometres, overlapping the borders of Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

Nowadays, as well as using the radio, students are also able to access information and communication via newer technologies such as email, computer links, video and the Internet.

This will doubtless mean that the Schools of the Air continue to develop in order to ensure that potentially isolated young people are included within the school community of Australia.

 

 

 
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Project originally funded by EU and DfID with support from Tower Hamlets LEA