MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 23) - For the first time, primary school children across Australia are learning about life and issues in Pacific Islands.

New in-depth curriculum materials have been developed and are being used in every state and territory.

It is all a part of a new educational movement called "global education".

Despite Australia's proximity to the region and its long-standing close relations, Australian schoolchildren have not had a chance to study the Pacific in any systematic way.

Now that's changing and surprisingly the initiative has come not from educational authorities, but from the Australian government's aid agency, AusAID.

AusAID's Arthur Burch is the brains behind global education in Australia.

"In the last 50 years or so the world has changed quite dramatically. We used to live in relatively isolated communities and we've moved to a more globalize community.

Global education is simply about helping young people live in that global community."

"The basis of global education is that everyone is important, that society is made up of individuals who can have an impact on their community and their world if they act in positive ways," said Burch.

Burch says part of the program teach students about political and quite difficult issues like the structure and the whole reason for the United Nations peace building.

"I guess if young people are to grow up and be effective members of world community then they have to understand and they have to deal with quite complex issues."

Burch says about 16,000 teachers are being trained to teach global education every year.

He adds that textbooks and exciting web challenges are available for primary and secondary students and AusAID's website offers 44 in-depth case studies in which the Pacific figures prominently.

"They cover I guess most aspects of Pacific island life from issues such as health and education to environmental issues. It's very important in smaller Pacific islands that people live in such a way that their environment is not affected, it's much easier to damage an environment in a small island community. So basically all the issues that are of importance to Pacific islanders."

"We've had very positive feedback and as you mentioned earlier the Pacific Islands have not been taught about a great deal in Australian schools and teachers are now finding this information new and interesting and the students are responding quite positively to it."

January 23, 2003

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia. 

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