Curtin students find teaching exchange experience a real eye-opener

The students posing with staff of the Institute of Teacher Education, Sarawak Campus.

The students posing with staff of the Institute of Teacher Education, Sarawak Campus.

Miri – 28 November 2013 – Nine Curtin students from Western Australia recently completed a two-week teaching exchange programme with various schools here under the AsiaBound Grants Programme 2014.

Their stint in Miri was facilitated by Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) and, according to them, the experience learning about education systems outside of Australia was a real eye-opener.

The students from the School of Education, Faculty of Humanities of Curtin University in Perth were Emily Foster, Sam Brojanowski, Giselle Birmingham, Esther Ballast, Megan Ciccotosto, Samantha Leyton, Alicia Dawson, Jessica Williams and Ashleigh Trott. They were accompanied and supervised by a lecturer from the School of Education, Dr. Rachel Sheffield.

Four schools took part in the programme, namely Sri Mawar Kindergarten, Sri Mawar Primary School, St. Joseph’s Primary School and Tenby International School, Miri.

The AsiaBound Grants Programme provides grants to approximately 3,600 Australian students each year to enrol in short-term mobility programmes in Asia such as internships, clinical placements, study tours, research trips or volunteer projects for up to six months. It gives them a first-hand study experience of Asia and helps enhance their skills and expertise.

Aligned with Curtin Sarawak’s ‘Professional Practice in Primary Education: An exposure to different cultural environments in Sarawak’ project, it also provides students specialising in primary education a unique practical experience in Sarawak, where they apply their teaching skills in the preparation of teaching plans to be delivered in local public, private or international schools.

The exposure also enabled the students to compare their teaching experiences in different settings, test their skills and competencies, as well as give them an accelerated learning experience in a true international context in Asia, including the cultural elements.

Throughout the programme, the nine young, aspiring teachers conducted assessments on the various curriculums they have encountered, namely the Australian Curriculum, Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Rendah (KSSR) and International Primary Curriculum (IPC); classroom structure covering aspects such as classroom layout, pedagogies, assessment and reporting; and relationships between peers, teachers and parents.

While in Miri, they also visited the Institute of Teacher Education, Sarawak Campus; Taman Awam, Crocodile Farm, Tamu Muhibbah, The Grand Old Lady and Petroleum Science Museum, Pustaka Miri, Niah Caves and Patrick Libau Longhouse located in Sungai Tangap.

Commenting on her experience, Ciccotosto said teaching internationally was not a career path she had considered previously but this experience has changed her mindset.

“The opportunity to come to a new country and experience a new culture, traditions, languages and teaching practices has definitely sparked my interest in teaching in unfamiliar places. This experience is something I will treasure for a long time,” she said.

According to Birmingham, being part of the programme has widened her perspective of teaching in different parts of the world. She looks forward to applying her knowledge and understanding upon her return to Australia.

Meanwhile, Leyton, who said she was privileged to observe different cultures in every school, opined that it is interesting to note how much emphasis is placed in examinations in Malaysia.

“It makes me wonder if teaching is about understanding concepts or passing exams,” she remarked.

At the end of the programme, the students related their experiences and presented their findings to a gathering of representatives from Curtin Sarawak and the participating schools at Tenby International School, Miri. Those present included Curtin Sarawak’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Jim Mienczakowski, University Life Manager Haslina Abdul Malek and the heads of the schools.

The students concluded that the four schools provide culturally inclusive environments for immensely diverse groups of students, and their students are keen learners geared to excel in their studies.

For more information on the AsiaBound Grants Programme, visit


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