Australian teachers learn about Indonesia
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A group of Australian teachers is visiting Indonesia on a program to improve their understanding of their northern neighbor.
Thirty-one elementary and high school teachers from across Australia are visiting Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali for 13 days, starting on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the educators visited the renowned informal Kartini Emergency School in Kampung Bandan, North Jakarta, and later in the afternoon dropped by The Jakarta Post editorial office.
This program for teachers is the latest activity by the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), which had earlier enlisted students and journalists as participants.
ACICIS executive and professor at University of New South Wales David Reeve said that in spite of his country’s proximity to Indonesia, interest from Australian citizens in the study of Indonesia affairs remained low.
To make matters worse for the program, the Australian government recently cut funding for Asian studies.
”There was a special program to support Asian study in schools, but because of the financial crisis, it became one of many things to be cut,” he said.
Reeve said the Indonesian government could help boost interest in the country in Australia. “There could be something like balai bahasa [language center] or balai budaya [cultural center] in each state in Australia,” Reeve said.
Another part of the teachers’ program is a visit to Parahyangan University, where the teachers will attend a mock ASEAN forum.
In Yogyakarta they are scheduled to stay at a shelter for survivors of the Merapi eruption in 2010, followed by a visit to a Muslim boarding school (pesantren) and a Catholic school.
The group is the first batch of teachers who are not directly involved in Indonesian studies. The program for teachers usually only covers Australian teachers of the Indonesian language.
The ACICIS is a non-profit educational consortium providing study programs for Indonesians and Australians to enhance mutual understanding. The consortium, established in 1994, has 21 Australian member universities.
One of the participants, Marc Warwick of Macquarie Primary School in Canberra, said he hoped the study tour would help improve his knowledge of Indonesian affairs and enhance his participation in the Indonesian studies program his school launched two years ago.
“Most Australians’ perceptions of Indonesia come from the media. By joining this program, we can share our real-life experiences with our students,” Warwick said.
Sharon Fellows, education and training director at the Australian Capital Territory Department of Education in Canberra, said she also hoped to cultivate interest in Indonesian studies among teachers.
Reeve said that the number of Australian universities providing Indonesian studies has been reduced from 26 to 19, partly due to the negative perceptions which many Australian hold toward Indonesia.
“It is probably unfair that Indonesia has a bad image because of bombings and violence. Parents don’t want their kids to go there or get involved in Indonesian studies,” Reeve said. (yps)