Indonesian educational reform delegation visits ACU Canberra

Published: Monday 14th November 2016

During the first week of October, ACU Canberra hosted a delegation of senior and emerging education reform leaders from Indonesia’s largest Islamic tertiary education institution, Universitas Islam Negeri, (UIN).

The delegation, comprising 20 academics from UIN, included Rectors, Vice Rectors, Deans and Vice Deans of Education as well as senior lecturers from the eleven campuses of UIN spread throughout the Indonesian archipelago.

Photo of the uin delegation below the ACU sign.

The UIN delegation visited ACU's Canberra Campus early in October.

ACU signed a memorandum of understanding with UIN in 2013, which aims at cementing the connection between the two universities. This recent visit is the third hosted by ACU and provides a strong indication of the value that UIN attaches to such opportunities. Senior UIN administrators are committed to bringing the UIN curricula into line with international standards in teaching and learning. It is hoped that this effort, along with other reforms, will ultimately lead to UIN being included in the list of the world’s top 500 universities. This is an ambitious objective but one that has broad support amongst UIN stakeholder groups, including the Indonesian government, staff, students, parents and religious / community groups.

The project is funded through the Community Outreach Programme of the Commonwealth Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. UIN, which offers both Islamic and conventional (non-Islamic) disciplines of study, has recently sought to reform and modernise its Teaching Sciences (Tarbiyah) Faculty.

The purpose of this visit was to provide this key group of reformers and decision-makers with the opportunity to view first-hand how a highly regarded Australian faith-based tertiary education system operates, with a special focus on curriculum reform planning and implementation, management, teaching methods, student experience, course structure, libraries and other resources.

“The project is working to both encourage and facilitate that process and I have had the great opportunity of being directly involved in its implementation for over six years,” commented Mary Gallagher, who organised the visit.

Mary Gallagher and head of delegation Dr Jamhari

Mary Gallagher and head of the UIN delegation Dr Jamhari.

The first day of the visit began with a welcome from the Deputy Head of the School of Education in Canberra, Judith Norris. The delegation then participated in a lecture and discussion led by Professor Raymond Canning on theology and religious education issues. The discussion addressed some of the many challenges involved in successfully integrating religious and secular teaching and learning. All those attending were struck by the many similarities in issues and challenges faced by both ACU and UIN. Participants were especially appreciative of Professor Canning’s insights into how some of the more pressing difficulties can be effectively addressed.

A morning tea, warmly hosted by the Canberra Campus Dean, Patrick McArdle enabled the visitors to meet many staff members, was followed by a tour of the university grounds and of the library.

The afternoon session began with Catherine McLaughlin sharing her insights into challenges and changes for education in the 21st century. The group engaged strongly with this session, which addressed many issues that are common to institutions of higher education in all parts of the world.

The first day ended with a session focused on research facilitated by Faculty of Education and Arts academics sharing their research interests and current projects.

The second day of the visit began with a session hosted by the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Education and Arts, Professor Geraldine Castleton. The participants appreciated her warm welcome to Australia and insights into the history of ACU, state and national accreditation requirements and internationalisation. Robyn Saunders then presented on active learning approaches to teaching – with particular reference to science and sociology. Next on the schedule, Anna McKenzie, Director of Standards and Professional

Practice at the ACT Teacher Quality Institute explained the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, professional learning and teacher registration requirements. Jill Burgess then spoke about inclusive education and how ACU prepares pre-service teachers to support the diverse learning needs of all students. This is an area of great challenge for Indonesia - the discussion was lively and there were many difficult questions for Jill to consider.

The afternoon session began with the Office of Student Success team speaking with the delegation about how ACU supports our students. The delegation was most impressed with ACU’s focus on student enrichment and the wide variety of activities and events that take place on a regular basis. Campus Ministry also impressed the delegation with their level of care towards students.

The final session, on the importance of Professional Experience within ACU’s initial teacher education programs, included four fourth year students who shared their placement experiences, with the delegation very impressed by the clear commitment of the students to these placements .

Patrick McArdle closed the visit with some kind and well-chosen words, especially in relation to the clear connections and similarities between ACU and UIN and the challenges that both universities face. This sentiment was echoed by the Head of Delegation, Professor Jamhari, who said in his closing remarks, “We have learnt so much about ways of reforming our education system. We feel like ACU is part of our family and we welcome you to come visit us in Indonesia any time”.

A debriefing session with the delegation after the formal visit had concluded demonstrated a strong sense of how deeply the visit had affected participants. Views were changed, attitudes shifted, insights gained. All participants expressed their admiration for the high levels of professionalism and commitment displayed by participating ACU staff and students.  In concluding, Mary Gallagher commented: “I add my own words of appreciation to everyone who gave up their time to making this visit such a success. I was very proud to show off ACU. Thank you.”