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Distance Education - Aussie Style

Updated on March 25, 2016
JanTUB profile image

Jan T Urquhart Baillie has many sides to her personality, born out of a difficult life, and success due to her optimism and practical skills

Outback Australia schooling

In the 1950s (loungeroom in the era pictured), children who lived in remote areas of Australia's outback were schooled by short-wave radio sets set up in their homes. Teaching was done by voice only.

I was on the School of the Air when I visited Charleville in the early 1990s, and was impressed with how the teacher made herself understood in a craft instruction topic.

Picture of very early SOTA - student using a short wave radio set to 'go to school'

Console in use 1950s
Console in use 1950s

"ASSOA-Images" [William Newman] September 2006. Alice Springs School of the Air 25/08/11

Information on the early days

of Charleville School of the Air

Charleville SOTA: Now the largest such centre in the world, employing 10 teachers catering for 385 primary age children within 1000 km of Charleville SOTA had only one teacher and 45 children when it started in 1966.

It provides supplementary material and contact for these children who are already using the Correspondence School material. The Correspondence School concentrates on written work, SOTA on oral, whilst trying to provide a classroom atmosphere for the children.

Schools of the Air bridge the oral communications gap in many ways. They:

Provide a three way communication from teacher to child, child to teacher, and child to child;

Assist the home tutor by explaining problems met in correspondence papers and answering queries directly;

Enrich the written program with music, news and group activities such as plays and clubs.

Develop a sense of closeness and of belonging to a special group or classroom;

Motivate the pupils to improve the quality of response to correspondence lessons;

Increase in pupils the dualities of self-confidence, initiative, self reliance and sense of responsibility; and

Build a concept of a teaching team between the SOTA teacher, the child, the correspondence school teacher and the home tutor.

The child benefits from the feeling that the teacher is close at hand and the knowledge that he or she is being supported by the team approach of SOTA and PCS, and is motivated by hearing the response of his or her peers, to perform well. (Charleville School of the Air, "Information Booklet", 1986, page 3)

Aussie kids living in remote parts of Australia get a great education because of SOTA

Fifty Four Years strong!

Attribution: By Sven Tombers (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

60th Anniversary

of the School of the Air

June 1951 was when the School of the Air was launched.

Sixty years later in May 2011, every Australian state has a School of the Air (SOTA).

The tyranny of distance has enabled this unique form of education to flourish. Children who live hundreds or even many hundreds of kilometres away from a bricks and mortar school can tune in each day and learn in their homes.

In the past, they used two-way radios, but now with the advent of satellite technology, they can even see their teachers on the computer, and the teachers can see them.

See and hear about school - in remote Australia

Phiggles The Flying Scientist
Phiggles The Flying Scientist

Phiggles The Flying Scientist

Some of Australia's most isolated children living in remote areas of Australia received the science lesson of their lives in June and July.

Science teacher, Phill Higgins, better known to the children as "Phiggles The Flying Scientist", took to the skies in his tenth annual "hands on" science program to share the fun and logic of science with kids at remote stations in Western Australia.

Information from Australia Post— Phiggles' sponsor.

Teacher at computer with webcam
Teacher at computer with webcam

Computers and satellite schooling

for isolated Assie kids now

Nowadays, they sit at their computers and learn in real time.

How much easier for the kids.

They can see what the teacher is doing and she can see them via webcam.

© 2011 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Interesting how resourceful people in the outback are - isn't it?

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    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @Elsie Hagley: I'm glad it brought back memories for you.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice lens and very interesting.

      Reminds me of New Zealand in 1948, and polio epidermic, and we did schooling by radio.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @MelRootsNWrites: Yes. Some areas of outback Australia are so remote there are no people for thousands of kilometres.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 6 years ago from California

      This was a really interesting page. I don't live in Australia so it was interesting to read about the challenges remote areas would have experience bringing education to their children.

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      @TeacherSerenia: Apparently Tasmania does have isolated areas - like the Franklin River district. And I actually was a guest on Charleville's School of the Air in Queensland. Broken Hill has one too. Thanks for dropping in.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      Every Australian state has a SOTA?

      I thought Alice Springs was the one and ONLY SOTA for the entire copuntry and it was chosen because it was centrally located?

      And I would think that Tasmania doesnt need a SOTA - because there are no really remote towns and farms in that state.

      One more thing - your intro - (longeroom in the era pictured) - I think maybe that should be LOUNGE room?