Making a difference - Taking public education to the education of the public
In 1990, Crookwell Public School wanted to initiate change to deliver the mandates of government policies, in particular the multicultural policy. The staff and P&C agreed to become involved in the International Internship Program, Tokyo. Host families volunteered to "adopt" a Japanese person for nine months.
The first intern, Miho, arrived in April 1990. She was an enthusiastic, conscientious 20 year old university student studying Psychology. Miho's dream was to live in Australia, learn to speak English better and enjoy the Australian lifestyle. Her mission was to share her knowledge of Japanese culture and lifestyle and teach the children some Japanese language.
The school's goal was to introduce the students and community to a very different culture and language. The school wanted to develop informed awareness of, and tolerance towards, people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Since Miho, the school community has hosted twelve interns aged from 20 to 62 years with professions ranging from business manager, orphan, university student, pharmaceutical researcher, traditional tutor and doctor to hospitality worker, secretary and teacher. One intern brought her daughter and two grandchildren who attended school in Crookwell for three months.
Over twelve years, host families, staff and many community members have enjoyed Japanese meals, Japanese games and learning about Japanese customs and rituals, as a result of the internship program. 600 Crookwell students have learned to interact comfortably and confidently with Japanese people, to speak basic Japanese and read and write alphabet characters. 130 students have joined small groups to study Japanese more intensively. Two students continued their language study in high school, one taking Japanese at university. Three secondary students were motivated to travel to Japan, one on a scholarship for twelve months. The Principal of Crookwell Public School was invited to Japan by the internship organisation to address future interns. One intern has married a Crookwell local and lives in Crookwell. She plans to enrol her new baby at Crookwell Public School when she is old enough.
Crookwell is a small town in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. It is the centre of a rural community based on wool, fruit and vegetable production. 98 per cent of the population is of Anglo-Celtic heritage and many families have lived in the area for generations. Today, the community hosts many Japanese visitors including the interns and their friends and relatives, educators, youth groups and police officers.
As a result of the Japanese interns being included in the school program, many attitudinal changes have been noted. Interns are now participants in all school excursions and events, welcomed in the clubs and hotels, invited to attend community group meetings, accepted into the local community and comfortably call Crookwell their "Australian home".
The ongoing success of this program can be attributed to the involvement of the whole school community. The internship program gives an extra dimension not only to Crookwell Public School, but to the community at large. Public education has indeed taken to the education of the public in Crookwell.
For more information contact the Principal of Crookwell Public School on phone 02 4832 1213.