VCE Students’ Cross-Cultural Insight

6 October 2017
A trip to Vanuatu provided these students with an opportunity for profound cross-cultural learning, growth and personal development.
in NEWS: Foundation

Twelve VCE students from Geelong Lutheran College in Victoria recently returned from Vanuatu, where they spent two weeks visiting the islands of Espiritu Santo and Efate; working in schools, visiting cultural villages, experiencing the Vanuatu community lifestyle and engaging in activities led by the NiVanuatu people within their beautiful surroundings. Led by teachers Sharlene Tattersall, Renae Pirrottina, Josh Baker and Jordan Riddle, the ‘GLC Cultural Adventure’ was developed to provide a group of students the opportunity for cross-cultural learning, growth and personal development outside a normal school environment.

Senior School Coordinator Sharlene, explains that GLC wanted to give the students a range of experiences across two islands. “Many schools choose one place to immerse themselves in, but our thoughts were that by engaging in experiences in a variety of communities it helped us to see the how their rich culture was expressed within and across islands. It also helped us to understand the benefits and challenges that colonisation has had in Vanuatu. In doing so, we also gained appreciation and understanding of the richness of cultural values that remain embedded regardless of this shift.”

Experiencing classes at all year levels from Kinder through to Year 12 gave the students a profound insight into the Vanuatu education system. “We were able to draw comparisons between both the Vanuatu and Australian curriculums, which in most cases were fairly similar,” Year 12 student Kiara Miller explains.

“The highlight of the trip for several of us was working in the schools. Across the seven schools we were lucky enough to visit, the team was able to work with the students in both academic tasks such as reading and writing and of course some fun activities, including swimming, painting, sport and games.”

“The quality and condition of the education spaces and the number of resources that the schools in Vanuatu had were a stark contrast to ours in Australia, which we now realise are state of the art.”

Vanuatu’s focus on languages also made quite an impact. “Most of the schools we visited taught English from Grade 3, with students also learning Bislama (the native language), plus an additional language such as French or Japanese.”

The group from GLC spent almost a year raising money that went towards textbooks for three schools on the central island of Efate. The group were able to raise almost $5,000 for the books and sourced them through Geelong Secondhand School Supplies. The Melanie Jewson Foundation are proud to have been able to assist GLC with freight of their crate to Port Vila, which we managed through Kalgin International Freight and Logistics, one of our long-time partner organisations.

Gary and Libby Jewson from the MJF are proud to have been able to assist. “We are excited that the MJF has been able to partner with GLC in a practical way, providing freight free of charge to ship a crate full of educational resources that the GLC students had secured for a number of schools in Vanuatu. We are committed to continuing this kind of support in 2018 and beyond.”

For Sharlene Tattersall, donating teaching resources was critical. “Textbook resources are very low within the schools. In some cases, only a couple of books to share with a whole class and the internet is not something they have access to and if they have, it is extremely slow. In most instances, resources are also very dated.”

One of the many objectives of the GLC trip was to immerse students in a rich cultural environment, fostering transformative thinking about self, others and the world. As far as Kiara is concerned, the expedition achieved this goal beyond her expectations.

“During our trip, we were able to make numerous connections with so many different people. Whether it was in a school, with a bus driver or a tour guide, we all came away astounded by the attitudes, family commitment and acceptance that the NiVanuatu people showed us. The values and selflessness these people display in their day-to-day lives was eye-opening for each one of us and provided a fantastic reality check that the world doesn’t just revolve around us, which is generally the attitude in our society.”

The values and selflessness these people display in their day-to-day lives was eye-opening for each one of us and provided a fantastic reality check that the world doesn’t just revolve around us, which is generally the attitude in our society.

Sharlene agrees. “For me as a teacher, it was an incredible privilege sharing this life-changing experience with our 12 students. The debriefs that we had each night where the students shared openly with heartfelt honestly were definitely the most memorable part for me.  These times of sharing highlighted how such an immersion experience such as this can shift perspective in a way that reading and watching documentaries on television cannot possibly do.  A key realisation that was significant for all of us was that despite our ‘richness’ in terms of material possessions and our initial thoughts that we had something to ‘bring’ to them, we were actually the ones who came away richer from our time spent with the people of Vanuatu and the valuable lessons we learned from the things they value in their culture. We witnessed ‘respect’ on a completely new level – both in the way they interacted with each other and also in their treatment of the environment –their source of their day to day supplies. The value they placed on community and family opened our eyes to a new level of understanding.”

The school is planning another cultural adventure in 2018 and hopes to continue the trips annually. We at The Melanie Jewson Foundation look forward to partnering again with Geelong Lutheran College, helping them to realise their donation goals and witnessing the profound impact of future trips on many students to come.

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