Classrooms get cultural for education students

30 March 2023

Preparing lesson plans and curriculum are words that go hand-in-hand when teaching school students.

Add a side of culture shock and jetlag, and that’s the type of exciting challenge that a group of CQUniversity students faced on their recent teaching experience in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

On a two-week overseas placement, the Bachelor of Education (Primary, Early Childhood and Secondary) students were able to put their knowledge into practice by working with children from Koh Dach Primary School.

The 18 students were all recipients of a New Colombo Plan scholarship funded by the Australian Government.

Under the guidance of CQU Associate Professor Angelina Ambrosetti and Associate Professor Gillian Busch, the students engaged in a real-world teaching experience in an environment unlike they had ever experienced.

“Our in-country experience included language classes, cultural activities and a teaching environment very different to Australia,” Assoc Prof Ambrosetti said.

“Our time spent in schools was challenging, and our pre-service teachers had to think on their feet and experiment with a variety of teaching pedagogies.”

Students worked in pairs in each classroom, formulating their own curriculum for children from Prep to Year 6 to improve both their spoken and written English.

“Most classes had a mix of English abilities from little to none,” Assoc Prof Ambrosetti explained.

“Our students started with basic introductions and by the end of the placement they were teaching the local students more complex sentences that involved food, family and interests, using games, songs, and hands-on activities for the classes.”

CQUniversity has a strong relationship with Projects Abroad (NGO) who facilitate the school placements and the University has had a presence in Cambodia since 2016.

The New Colombo Plan scholarships, which enable the students to undertake these experiences, focus on building Australian undergraduate students experience of and connection to the Indo-Pacific region as well as developing people-to-people relationships.

Associate Professor Gillian Busch said the program that CQUniversity developed had been specifically designed to immerse students in the day-to-day lives of Cambodian communities, share knowledge and skills, and contribute to the educational future of Cambodian children.

“For some of our students this was their first time overseas and for others the first time they had experienced the Indo-Pacific region,” Assoc Prof Busch said.

“We could see the personal and professional benefits of the experience growing day by day – it was a life-changing experience.”