Distance has been no barrier for teachers and students across Australia and Asia who have been sharing knowledge and learning together as part of the Australia-ASEAN BRIDGE School Partnerships Program.
BRIDGE (Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) is a whole school program that builds teachers' capability through international school partnerships to develop intercultural understanding, enhance information communication technology skills, and establish sustainable school partnerships.
BRIDGE aims to increase the global skill set of students in Australia and across the region by assisting schools to facilitate student collaboration on projects, practice language skills and develop life-long friendships with students at their partner school.
The Australia-Asia BRIDGE School Partnership Program has been developed over a nine-year period, beginning with the Indonesia BRIDGE program in 2008, which involved Indonesian teachers visiting Australia.
Initially supported by The Myer Foundation’s 'Beyond Australia Committee', the program has evolved into an Australian Government funded reciprocal program where both Australian teachers and Asian country partners visit each other’s country for face-to-face professional learning.
As a result of the program’s regional success, impact and demand has seen it expand across Asia, culminating in 2016 with a multilateral BRIDGE program, ASEAN BRIDGE, which now includes 11 countries from across the region.
The BRIDGE school partnership program has developed over 330 international school partnerships (660 schools and over 985 teachers) across Australia, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
‘Research indicates that understanding your own cultural traditions, values and beliefs and engaging with the experiences and ideas of others, is the foundation to becoming a responsible local and global citizen,’ explains the International Director of the Asia Education Foundation, Mr Aaron O’Shannessy.
Over the next two years, the BRIDGE School Partnership Program aims to continue to establish school partnerships in all 10 ASEAN member nations.
‘By providing school communities with immersive, first hand experience, BRIDGE supports students to develop and explore their interest in the region, and alerts them to further opportunities available, including scholarships, involvement with youth organisations, and government initiatives such as the New Colombo Plan,’ says Aaron.
The Australia-ASEAN BRIDGE School Partnerships Program is supported by the Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC). Launched by the Foreign Minister on 8 September 2015, the AAC generates opportunities for Australian business, education, science and innovation, and the arts to work with partners in South East Asia.