Established in July 1996 in Pejaten of South Jakarta by a group of parents who were educators, the Australian International School (AIS) Indonesia has grown from an initial enrollment of only 11 students to over 500 students housed on three successful campuses — in Kemang (South Jakarta), Pejaten and Bali.
The following are excerpts of the interview:
Question: How is Australian education system utilized in nurturing its students?
Answer: Recognized as one of the best education systems in the world, Australia offers a unique education and learning style that encourages students to be innovative, creative and think independently. It is, therefore, an approach that can help students develop their confidence and effective communication skills. The Australian education is an inclusive one.
And one of our key strengths is to establish “a melting pot school community” where we accept all students regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion, gender and ability or language background. Another key strength to achieve excellent learning outcomes, as implemented at AIS, is the use of an integrated curriculum approach.
An integrated curriculum approach recognizes that the real world is not neatly divided into subject areas and that, when we learn, we explore a wide range of options and preferences rather than focus narrowly. The approach uses a content-based curriculum area like science, as a host subject, while the process-based curriculum areas such as language, math and arts are tools to explore and gain target understandings of the host subject area. At AIS, such a holistic approach has proven to be effective, bringing the students’ particular strengths and talents to the problem-solving arena.
In implementing the Australian education system, we use the Victorian State system for the primary school program and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) system for high school.
What are the reasons for using two systems? I mean, wouldn’t it be better to adopt just one system instead of two despite the different educational levels?
We have carefully selected the systems from Australia that best suits the needs of students in an international setting. The Victorian primary school system is an outcome based approach, standardized to meet student progress. The system really suits autonomous schools like AIS, with high-level accountabilities in place to ensure a highly functioning school. The ACT (Canberra) system is the most student-friendly system for high school students seeking university admission.
The ACT Year 12 certificate is awarded to all students who complete an approved program of their studies during Years 11 and 12. For that purpose, we have a Careers and Further Education Advisor to assist AIS students in making choices about their further education by exposing them to a variety of educational opportunities and information. For Year 10 students, they can seek advice on their subject choices for the Australian Capital Territory Board of Senior Secondary Studies (ACT BSSS) certificate.
At any time, students can complete a career aptitude test to help steer them towards making choices. Counseling is also available for students to discuss different tertiary courses, various universities and colleges. Support is given with the university application process from assistance with reference and transcript requests to personal statement writing and language as well as aptitude tests such as International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
How about extracurricular activities (ECAs) at the school? How much do you expect students, both in primary and secondary levels, to engage in such activities?
We recognize that academic learning is only one aspect of learning. And through extracurricular activities, students are given more opportunity to develop and explore new interests. Our students, both in primary as well as in high school, are encouraged to participate in a broad range of sporting and recreational activities. Students at AIS choose the ECAs that either reflect their existing talent or help them explore new interests. Through their involvement in such activities, our students develop an understanding of leadership, teamwork and self-esteem.
Besides ECAs, I acknowledge that AIS has built its reputation of being capable of catering to children with both learning difficulties and physical disabilities. Would you mind sharing with us how such programs have achieved success?
To ensure that our students can access a full learning curriculum, we equip specialist support programs to assist students with specific learning needs, like those with learning difficulties and physical disabilities.
Not only do we provide the expertise of a Special Needs Coordinator and Special Needs Teacher, but also other integral support services such as Occupational Therapist (OT), Behavioral Psychologist and Student Counselor. All of these staff members work with students on a needs basis and the Program Support Group determines the extent of that provision. Our Special Needs staff members constantly act to ensure the highest level of effectiveness in assisting Special Needs students. This is part of the AIS philosophy that makes AIS a truly inclusive school. It is an exclusive program that is not available in many schools around the world. In fact, we have Special Needs students who lead a full and rewarding academic life and have successfully accessed tertiary education upon graduation.
Published in The Jakarta Post, June 4, 2007.