International students may find Australian classrooms and teaching approaches very different from what they are usually accustomed to. Australia is one of the countries with the most international students in the world. The Australian Curriculum consists of 7 different subject areas and aims for teachers to not only impart knowledge but to prepare children for life and equip them with critical life skills. Students experience a diverse learning environment in classrooms where they are inspired, valued and motivated.
Role of the teacher
A striking difference is the role the teacher plays in the classroom. A traditional teacher-centred system is in place in many countries, where the teacher is considered an expert figure. The teacher and children have a give and take relationship where the teacher provides knowledge, and the student absorbs. Classrooms are sometimes congested with over 50 students at once which also requires a lot of discipline and rote learning is common.
In Australia, things work a bit differently! Class sizes are reduced to approximately 25-30 children to maximise children's learning. Teachers play the role of a facilitator and mentor for students; this is commonly known as a student-centred approach. It is part of the teacher's role to recognise that each student has individual capabilities, learning styles, interests and abilities. The Australian Curriculum also has a very inclusive approach, and teachers must adapt every lesson to suit children's individual learning styles.
Dynamics of Learning:
In contrast to other countries, the dynamics of learning within the classroom can be quite disparate. Questions and discussions are encouraged in the classroom to get different perspectives and create a better understanding for students. Ice breaker games and 'circle time' are common to support group dialogues and peer collaboration.
Project-based learning, referred to as a game-changer, is an approach used by some Australian schools in the classroom to encourage more in-depth understanding and higher levels of engagement. The focus of this method is about the learning experience rather than the project and knowledge itself. Teachers can conduct assessments through various formal and informal mediums such as group work, class observations, oral presentations, quizzes or educational games.
Role of Parents:
Parents are considered children's first teachers. When families and schools work together, it is evident that children perform better, go to school more regularly and are more active participants in their learning.
Teachers in Australia maintain regular communication with parents through different methods and encourage parents to participate in the classroom. Volunteering in the canteen, helping out with reading groups or coming on excursions are standard practices for schools to build partnerships with parents.
Technology & Media in the Classroom:
Advancement in technology has had a significant impact on classrooms and education in the twenty-first century.
In previous decades, books were the only medium to provide educational opportunities. However, today an abundance of information is available through so many diverse channels. Internet, audio, podcasts, educational videos are just merely a few examples of the things that are just one click of a button away.
Interactive whiteboards or Smartboards are also increasingly gaining popularity in Australian schools. School News Australia describes smart technology slowly shifting from a novelty to a necessity. The Smartboards are a valuable asset if used correctly because they capture students' attention and make lessons more hands-on.
Children will need time to settle into the environment, but ultimately, the Australian Classroom can provide a beneficial and nurturing environment for children to flourish in their own way. In fact, according to the TIMSS study, Australia ranks among the top 10 countries in maths and science. It is undoubtedly challenging to adjust to the new culture and different schooling environment for children, sometimes causing school anxiety. But teachers, parents and families should all work together in partnership to support the child positively.