January welcomed another practicum with 24 students and their academics from Monash, La Trobe and Victoria universities. This round saw the students complete their 15 day pre-service teaching placements across 10 sites for Primary, Secondary and Early Childhood Education throughout Kuala Lumpur. The placements this round included schools that had not been a part of the GEP program before as the Malaysian Ministry of Education is keen to create opportunities for a broader range of schools to benefit from the interaction with the Australian pre-service teachers.
The GEP program provides an immersion into the local culture and a comparison and contrast between the Australian and Malaysian School systems and their pedagogies. For some students the rather large class sizes in Malaysia provide a challenge, while the opportunity to get involved in extracurricular activities provides the chance to interact with the children in a less formal setting.
The pre-service teachers are placed in local schools with students from another Victorian university. The shared accommodation is also pre-allocated so students share with someone from a different university to ensure students have opportunities for peer learning through sharing different models of teacher training and pedagogical understandings. This is designed to develop the foundations of their professional networks to assist them once they are in the workplace.
Despite the challenges of the early mornings (school begins at 7.30am), becoming familiar with local transport, the heat, language issues and an unfamiliar teaching model, the students report an invaluable cultural and learning experience.