Education and Arts

Preservice teachers learn, engage and teach in Vanuatu

In the July school holidays a team of six students and two staff from the School of Education (NSW) made the inaugural tour to Arep Secondary School, in Sola, Vanuatu. The team led by Mr Matthew Campbell and Associate Professor Jan Long comprised of Yvette Cochrane (Bachelor of Teaching/Bachelor of Arts), Melinda Bray, Hayley Martin and Lauren Vella from the Bachelor of Education (Primary) course and Kate Virgona and Melissa Clark from the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) course.

The capital of Torba Province, Sola is located on the island of Vanua Lava and is a low economically developed area with limited infrastructure. The Arep Secondary School has no internet access and very limited resources, challenging the student-teachers to use the available resources to develop innovative and engaging lessons for the students.

As a part of their professional experience, the students spent two weeks teaching and working in the school and developed real-life skills and experiences; particularly the challenge of teaching in a secondary context. The challenging environment pushed the students to their full. In the first few days the stress of the new environment, without the comforts of home, came to bear on a few, but by the end of the experience they were all reluctant to leave.

Whilst the preservice teachers from ACU engaged the students at Arep, the academic staff engaged the local teachers. Three short professional development sessions were hosted with all the staff coming together to share their experiences and engage with new ideas. For most staff at Arep this was the first professional development that they had participated in, in the last decade. The professional development sessions utilised the ACU students practice in the classroom as a springboard to engage and empower the staff to try different teaching strategies which moved beyond 'chalk and talk', and to consider the importance of planning and mapping curriculum across a school.

The program was well received by the students and the staff. The team's ideas of professional experience for staff and engaging students with innovative teaching methods will be further discussed at a meeting involving senior education leaders including the Minister of Education in Vanuatu.

This was a mutually rewarding experience for the ACU team and Arep Secondary School. Preparation for a similar program in 2012 is already underway. The preservice students created a video outlining their experiences and learning and can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TV3iqMTo9s