Australians were the first to use School of the Air to educate isolated children.
What's the problem?
Living in the large continent of Australia can mean isolation and loneliness. Children living in the vast Australian inland are often miles away from the nearest school.
A great Aussie solution
The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) began operation in 1928 and within a few years it had established a large radio network across the outback. The network depended largely on a pedal-powered radio invented by Alfred Traeger and he and the founder of the RFDS, Reverend John Flynn, discussed other services that could be made possible using the radio.
Adelaide Miethke, an influential Adelaide schoolteacher, made the proposal for a School of the Air to be set up through the radio network and in 1950 the first lesson was broadcast. By 1956 the program had spread to New South Wales and there are now 12 Schools of the Air around Australia.
How does it work?
Gone are the days of the pedal radio, but School of the Air teachers still use HF (high frequency) radio to provide lessons to their students. The majority of the school curriculum is covered through correspondence lessons that teachers prepare and mail to their students. Regular telephone conversations between teacher and student are used, along with newer technologies such as email, computer links, video and the Internet.
Schools of the Air continue to provide education to isolated people, and their role is extending into adult education. As technology continues to develop, access to information is improving for people in the outback.
Further info, facts and fun
- School of the Air has grown from a handful of students in 1951 to well over 1000 students in 12 schools.
For more info on some Schools of the Air, check out:
School of the Air Port Augusta http://oac.schools.sa.edu.au/sota/
School of the Air Katherine http://www.ksa.nt.edu.au
School of the Air Alice Springs http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au
Royal Flying Doctor Service http://www.rfds.org.au
For more info on great Australian Science check out:
CSIRO's Australia Advances http://www.csiro.au/promos/ozadvances
The Australian Academy of Science’s Nova http://www.science.org.au/nova
The Australian Science Archive Project http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/