Kiwi teachers make
connections in Indonesia

A group of 11 New Zealand teachers visited Indonesia recently to learn about that country’s peoples and cultures and make connections with their Indonesian counterparts. They visited the country on the Foundation’s Indonesia Cultural Connections Trip.

Watch a video showing some of what the teachers experienced in Indonesia

Over ten days, the teachers visited schools and cultural and historical sites in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and stayed with local families.

At the schools, students performed traditional dances and songs and the New Zealand teachers responded in like.

"It was a reciprocal sharing of cultures, with the kids asking questions about New Zealand and the teachers in turn asking the students about their lives," says the Foundation’s Educators Network manager Sean O’Connor.

He says cultural connections trips give teachers invaluable first-hand experience of the countries of Asia, which leads to greater knowledge of Asia for both them and their students.

“By actually visiting a country, the teachers not only get a much deeper understanding than they could get any other way, we also find students are far more engaged when hearing about their teacher’s personal experiences.”

Teachers walking down cobbled path

Sean O'Connor says the amazing welcomes they received at the schools was above and beyond what they expected

Onerahi School (Whangarei) teacher Ella Hollows describes the trip as “eye-opening”.

“Not only did we experience the culture and the history of Indonesia, we got to meet people from different walks of life and developed our understanding of the importance of Asian languages and culture from an education perspective.”

She says the highlight of the trip was visiting Al Azhar Islamic schools in Jakarta, where the teachers also home-stayed with local families.

“As a teacher, it was a great opportunity to be part of a school in another culture and experience both the similarities and the differences,” she says.

During the visit to the Al Azhar schools, Ella established a connection with a teacher and has been in regular contact with her since returning to New Zealand.

She held the first of what she hopes will be regular Skype conversations between her class and an Al Azhar class last week. The two classes introduced themselves to each other, talked about their hobbies and discussed what they like about school.

“We hope our learners can write shared stories, share learning, give and receive feedback and make friendships,” she says.

Ella’s class is learning a traditional Indonesian dance that they will perform at their end of year assembly and the Indonesian class will be learning about Maori culture next year.

“Throughout this learning, we will continue to connect so our learners can be the experts and share their knowledge and experiences with each other as we build this connection into our daily practice.”

Brookfield School (Tauranga) teacher Ngaire Gow says it’s extremely important for New Zealand teachers to develop knowledge of other cultures.

“Trips like this lead us towards being culturally competent and to respect different ways of understanding and knowing, which is extremely important for teachers in New Zealand - a multi-cultural country with students of various cultures in our classrooms. 

“It is easy for us to observe surface features of culture like food, dress and music but deeper culture is not easily seen - things like ideas of beauty, reasons for rules around clothing and concepts about ourselves; these are learnt from authentic immersion in the culture, which can only be obtained through a trip.”

Indonesian school kids sitting eating lunch

Visiting schools in Yogyakarta and Jakarta was a highlight for the teachers

Before she left for Indonesia, Ngaire's students at Brookfield School created a slideshow about New Zealand including video of their school environment and students singing Maori waiata, which she shared with teachers in Indonesia.

On her return, Ngaire created an Indonesia display in a classroom using photos, a map, music and souvenirs to provoke questions from her students.

Her class has also created maths problems with Indonesian contexts, done a study on Indonesia's Mount Merapi and undertaken an inquiry into some of the similarities and differences between Indonesia and New Zealand.

“The students are beginning to see that while things like dress and food may be different, people are people and have similar dreams, feelings and aspirations,” she says.