Wednesday, August 20, 2008

katherine school of the air

The NT covers a large area- it is approx three times the size of the United Kingdom-so over 250 isolated children have to be educated using distance learning ( students on cattle stations, Aboriginal communities, and families who are traveling throughout Australia or overseas). This covers all families who are over a 2 hour drive from the nearest school or over an hour from a school bus route.

Katherine School of the Air began operating on 12 September 1966. Not only was this the first School of the Air service to students in the Top End of the Northern Territory but it was the first broadcast of a School of the Air made independently of other services (such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia). Radio lessons for the Katherine School of the Air at that time were supplementary to correspondence courses supplied by the South Australian Correspondence School.

Since 2006 the NT has developed an internet distance learning system, and we went to a lecture and demonstration, and watched the teacher running a maths class. The kids can see the teacher through several webcams, and all interaction is via an instant messaging system. The kids will be in small groups where possible, but many are solitary.

Where families are eligible, the IT specialist hops into his aeroplane and flies out and installs a complete satellite internet system at their homes, at a government subsidised cost to the participants of $300 per year. Equipment and paperwork for lessons is sent by post. Teachers will visit each student at least once a year, and the total distance travelled by either road or plane averages over 120, 000 km per year.

Once a year the kids all get together for school camp. The organisation and dedication of the staff was palpable and the talk extremely interesting.

More details on their website Katherine School of Air

No comments: