One of the many nice things about living in Bali, and one of the more underrated, is that there are so many conferences held here that every now and again there is one that is really interesting. Last year there was a fantastic meeting of children’s writers and storytellers with writers coming from Asia and Australia. And just a few months ago, Indonesian teachers from Australia gathered in Bali for the Australian Society of Indonesian Language Educators (ASILE) conference.
Teachers from all over Australia came to Bali for the two-day conference on 29-30 September, many staying longer to further improve their language skills. I met teachers from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, ACT and Western Australia who ranged from primary school teachers, to high school all the way to university lecturers. The conference was held at IALF‘s headquarters in Denpasar, a comfortable space with enough rooms to accommodate the many parallel sessions.
The theme for the conference was Kobarkan Semangatmu: Working Together to Overcome Challenges. Some of the challenges that were discussed included declining numbers of students and schools taking Indonesian, and the end of Australian government programs that had encouraged more teachers to retrain as teachers of Indonesian.
The Indonesian Curriculum for Australian schools was also discussed with the curriculum authors presenting on ‘what lies beneath and where to for teachers.’ It was an interesting presentation and a pity that it wasn’t included on the USB stick that was given in the conference pack.
Strong Indonesian presence
Among the conference attendees were many Indonesian teachers including some from Dyatmika (who presented on their literacy program) and the Green School. Many of the Indonesian-born and educated teachers seemed to have trained as English teachers first, and then switched to teaching Bahasa Indonesia bagi Penutur Asing (BIPA, meaning Indonesian for foreign learners). BIPA seems to be gaining momentum in Indonesia. Since 1999, BIPA teachers and institutions have had a professional association, APBIPA, which is working on the development of a certification program for BIPA teachers.
In fact, George Quinn, chair of the Balai Bahasa Indonesia in the ACT, declared in his opening remarks, “the centre of gravity in the teaching of Indonesian as a foreign language has shifted emphatically to Indonesia itself.” This makes it increasingly important for teachers in Australia to have good links with teachers in Indonesia, which would have been one of the aims of the conference.
Sessions were either in English or Indonesian and 18 of the 28 parallel sessions were presented by Indonesians, which demonstrates the eagerness for the Australian teachers to learn from their native speaker colleagues.
Aussie Indo teachers an interesting bunch
There is an interesting thing about Indonesian teachers in Australia. The majority are Australian-born whose first language is typically English. In contrast, 90 per cent of Chinese teachers in Australia are native speakers of Chinese. That is not to say that one is better than the other. What teachers may lack in accents and cultural knowledge they could make up with shared culture with their students, plus possibly having the advantage of other teaching experience in Australian schools.
I wondered, though, is this another factor as to why most Australian students currently studying Indonesian are doing so as beginners?
I was impressed with the teachers I met who had trained first in another field and later added on Indonesian. One teacher taught IT, another taught science, and both were able to relate their other area of expertise with teaching Indonesian. Learning Indonesian colours through a science experiment sounded very interesting. The IT teacher, Joyce Tabone, was also full of ideas on how to use IT, specifically iPad apps, to make learning Indonesian more fun.
The best sessions I found were the app session and one on Indonesian traditional games. Both were very useful, full of practical tips, and fun for the participants too.
On the last afternoon the Language Learning Space was launched and looks like an impressive tool to use. It includes a tutorial service for Australian schools provided by IALF.
I was sorry not to be able to join in on the trips to the Green School and STPBI, but it was a great experience to join with a group of enthusiastic teachers who loved what they did and were all eager for ideas on how to improve their teaching.