Takeover complete: Teachers keen to foster better understanding of Islam.

One could guarantee they will not see the reality for minorities in Indonesia, a former Buddhist country: Indonesian church bombings carried out by one family, police say.
Teachers keen to foster better understanding of Islam.

Hamilton Girls’ High School teachers Shannan Thomas, left, and Claire Setz will travel to Indonesia to learn about the country and Islam.

Fostering a respect and understanding of other cultures is a key focus at Hamilton Girls’ High School.

Teachers call it developing global citizens.

When your school has 71 unique ethnicities – it also makes a lot of sense.

This month, Hamilton Girls’ High teachers Shannan Thomas and Claire Setz? and four other educators from around the country will travel to Indonesia for 10 days as part of a two-way exchange.

The group will be hosted by Indonesia teachers, staying in their homes, and experience the country’s education system, life and culture first-hand.

In return, the Indonesia teachers will visit their Kiwi colleagues in June to learn about New Zealand culture and education.

The exchange is part of the Global Schools Partnership Project – a collaboration between the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence.

Thomas and Setz will spent time in a private Muslim school and say the experience will help inform their teaching.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. Nearly 90 per cent of its 264 million citizens identify as Muslim.

Developing an understanding of Islam is “absolutely” important, Setz said.

“I think the more cultures people are exposed to, the more tolerant they are and the greater their understanding,” she said.

Hamilton Girls’ High has a large number of Muslim students.

“If we can facilitate our students to become in touch with students in Indonesia, and help them understand what their day to day lives are like as opposed to ours, that can only be a good thing,” Setz said.

“It’s really exciting that Hamilton Girls’ High School is looking globally and we are focused on developing global citizens … students who feel comfortable interacting with people outside of their own culture.”

Setz, 31, teaches history, geography, social studies and humanities across all age groups. As part of the humanities curriculum, Setz teaches about a range of religions.

“We look at the historical influence of Christianity on our legal system and the way we operate and then we look at how much Islam has grown in New Zealand.”

During the exchange, Setz and Thomas will wake up to the Muslim call to prayer, experience attending the school’s mosque, and observe the five daily prayers.

Thomas, 23, teaches history and social studies to Year 9 to 11 students and anticipates the exchange will benefit her classroom practice.

“Not as many people consider travelling through Asia as they might to other parts of the world and that can start with what they learn in schools,” Thomas said.

“If they only learn about European and United States histories, or what’s happening in Europe or the US, then they are the parts they want to go and see. If we brought more Asian history and experiences into our classrooms, then that encourages students to think about seeing those places one day.”

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