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Indonesian alumni outside Parliament House. Image supplied by Australia Awards Indonesia.

Australia Awards alumni help rebuild education sector in post-tsunami Indonesia

A new case study from the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility finds alumni are helping to replace schools, teachers and education systems destroyed in Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged regions.

The Australian Government has offered scholarships – from the original Colombo Plan to the Australia Awards today – to emerging leaders from developing countries for more than 60 years. Australia’s closest neighbour, Indonesia, has the largest and longest running scholarship program in the region.

Researchers from the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility (the Facility) – managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) – recently visited Indonesia to investigate the long-term impact of Australia Awards alumni who studied education in Australia from 2006–2010, and found they are using their expertise to help rebuild communities devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Two alumni from Aceh – motivated to study in Australia after the tsunami destroyed nearly all of the already disadvantaged region’s schools, and killed more than 1,500 of its teachers – are currently working to rebuild teaching capacity in the province.

Alumna Ms Eridafitri Muchtar lost many colleagues in the disaster, resulting in an urgent need for people with English skills. She recalls how the devastation motivated her to find ways to help rebuild her community.

‘There were a lot of friends and colleagues, but especially English teachers, lost in the tragedy and I was committed to replace the positions,’ Ms Muchtar says. ‘At the same time, we just finished designing the English textbooks but most of them were lost in the tsunami. After that, I promised myself that I should do something.’

The idea of further training in Australia appealed. Ms Muchtar applied for an Australian Partnership Scholarship and studied a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Flinders University 2008–2009. On her return, Ms Muchtar became a teacher-trainer, specialising in professional development programs for English language teachers in Aceh and throughout the region. She has worked on the Australia Awards English Language Teaching Assistance program (ELTA) since 2015, training teachers in remote areas of Indonesia including Maluku, Papua, Papua Barat, East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara.

Alumnus Dr Fadliadi was also deeply affected by the effects of the tsunami on his home province and decided to upgrade his skills to help the Aceh community. During his Master of Education, Leadership and Management at Flinders University on an Australian Partnership Scholarship 2007–2008, he was invited to undertake a Doctorate degree in which he would explore the challenges and needs of children affected by the tsunami.

Dr Fadliadi became an in-service teacher-trainer for Aceh Province for the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) on returning home in 2016. He now works with educators from kindergarten to senior high school, providing professional development to improve pedagogical practices across the region. Dr Fadliadi hopes to be able to conduct more research, including a longitudinal study on the children who participated in his Doctorate thesis that will trace the long-term impact of the tsunami on their resilience as adults.

Alumni interviewed report using the skills and knowledge they gained on award to strengthen Indonesia’s national education sector through regional teacher training, curriculum reform and improving pedagogy. A finding unique to the latest case study from the Facility, however, is the degree to which alumni are also making their impact felt on a local level; of the eight interviewed, six say they contribute directly or indirectly to improved education services in their home provinces. (The remaining two are studying Doctorates overseas.)

To learn more about the Australian Awards Global Tracer Facility findings and to read the full report, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. ■

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