Monash-Indonesia partnership aims to develop education leadership

20 November 2018

Awestruck!” That’s how Edward Strain, Assistant Principal at Clayton North Primary School,  said he felt when he saw his school’s student-run café replicated in an Indonesian school in October.

“I was quite awestruck by the fact that the Indonesian principals, who recently visited here, have come in, taken up an idea from our school and run with it and moulded it to their own setting,” Mr Strain said.

“It reaffirmed that what we are doing is really making a difference. It really internationalises education and says that whilst we're two different countries, those borders can be broken down very quickly.”

Three Indonesian school girls serving at their student-run EduCafe.
EduCafe is a student-run cafe at an Indonesian school in Bandung.

Global learning connects education beyond the classroom

Mr Strain and his school are among this year’s participants in an innovative partnership between Monash University and Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture.

Currently in its second year, the Professional Learning Program for Indonesian School Principals and Supervisors connects education leaders and their schools in Indonesia and Australia to take learning beyond the classroom.

Associate Professor Graham Parr, Associate Dean (International) at the Monash Faculty of Education says the program’s vision is of a more inclusive, holistic understanding of education.

“It's actually about the importance of the social, about seeing education as not merely ingesting knowledge and facts and information.

“It's about preparing individuals to be parts of communities; to understand and contribute to democracy … and depending on where you are, that gets translated in different ways.

“We're preparing for people to be global citizens with an understanding of the world … and that you as an individual and others you work with have the potential to contribute, to shape that world.

“It is certainly a more philosophically optimistic understanding of schooling and development.”

Holistic learning breaks down barriers

Mr Strain says programs, such as the student café, were part of the school’s focus to provide students with a holistic education experience – one which combines academic learning with extra-curricular activities.

The café helps Clayton North Primary School students to learn skills such as finance, budgeting, customer service, communication and food hygiene and build upon student engagement and social networking

And, with around 88% of students speaking a language other than English, these programs allow them to feel comfortable learning and developing their English skills in an interactive, and engaging way, which in turn helps their academic learning.

“We have a very low level of absentee rates and that's steadily improved over the last five years … and can imply that students are really loving coming to school,” Mr Strain said.

“To be able to share what our school does, to share our journey, to meet and network with like-minded and passionate educators from other countries and have them genuinely interested in what our school does … it goes back to breaking down those barriers.

“You could make a list of all the differences … but the things that really bound our two countries and our two school systems together was a focus on values, a focus on learning and trying to implement different teaching methods.”

Linking Australian and Indonesian school leaders

The professional learning program saw 25 education leaders from Indonesia spend three weeks in Australia in August 2018.

While here, they participated in intensive professional development at Monash University, spent time embedded in local schools to see specialist programs in practice and had discussions and mentoring sessions with local school leaders.

Using their learnings, the Indonesian school leaders then identified and framed a small development projects to initiate and implement in their own school.

The program culminated in late October 2018 when around 300 Indonesian educators, along with six Australian principals and assistant principals, came together at a school leadership symposium in Bandung. The travel costs of the Victorian Principals to Indonesia were funded through a grant from the Monash Indonesia Representative Office.

Group photo of participants at the School Leadership Symposium in Indonesia, October 2018
Victorian school principals and Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture representatives at the School Leadership Symposium, October 2018.

Schools connecting with communities

“By all of these educators coming together in Indonesia, they're signalling to all of those leaders the importance of continuing to raise your gaze beyond the local in your backyard and to engage with people beyond your space,” Associate Professor Parr said.

“Some of the principals began thinking of their schools in quite different ways … and connecting with the community in ways they hadn't really done before.”

Some of the projects Indonesian school leaders have embedded into their schools include student-run cafés, school gardens, mentoring programs, student feedback trees, reading corners, mindfulness spaces, links with local universities and health clinics, music programs and morning briefings on school values which parents are invited to attend.

Indonesian school kids sitting on a mat reading books from the mobile library van
Indonesian students are enjoying a new Reading corner at their school - the Indonesian style.

Creating a positive school environment

In developing her project, Friny Napasti, Principal of SMP Negeri 2, a junior secondary college in Tarakan, Indonesia, said she had drawn inspiration from the focus on positive education and student wellbeing that she had seen in the Australian schools she visited.

“I am trying to build a positive environment in my school, by creating a happy, healthy and high-achieving community,” Ms Napasti said.

“I am creating a classroom, that is a source of learning, a space for students to hang all their learning products on the walls and feel appreciated by the teachers.

“This wall is also a feedback wall where all students put feedback about their learning products so teachers can see what they like or dislike and make improvements.

“Indonesian schools and Australian schools can learn from each other. Our focus, our aims are the same. We are building the character of our students and we are preparing our students to become good citizens in the 21st Century. So, it’s about sharing with each other how to teach our students,” she said.

Group photo: Victorian school principals with local Indonesian students and their principals during a school visit
Victorian school principals with local Indonesian students and their principals during a school visit.

Importance of global citizenship to learning

Helen Koziaris, Principal of Oakleigh Secondary College, said participating in the leadership program helped open her eyes further to the importance of cross-cultural relationships and the possibilities of global education partnerships.

“There are so many great things in different parts of the world. What are they demonstrating and how can we take on board some of those and actually be global citizens,” Ms Koziaris said.

“And how do we get that connection between us and how do we work together as collegiately as we can in two different worlds?

“My greatest learning from this program is global citizenship. What does it mean to be a global citizen? What does it mean for our kids to be global citizens? What does it mean for all of us to have that cultural understanding of, yes we are different, but yes we are the same.

“[Education] is about looking at the whole child … what makes them a better person for themselves and then for the community … what we teach them, are the values, are the expectations of what hopefully they will teach their kids or their world.”