Julia Gaio has big plans for Timor-Leste’s education sector and she’s not afraid to share them.
“I might be the Minister of Education someday, who knows,” she laughs.
Julia, who hails from the small South-East Asian country of Timor-Leste is currently undertaking her Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, Australia through the Australia Awards scholarships.
As a national teacher-training consultant prior to commencing her scholarship, Julia believes a strategy of training the trainer is crucial to developing Timor-Leste’s frail education system. According to a World Bank report published in 2013, by the time Timor-Leste declared its independence from Indonesia in 2002, many schools had already been destroyed and there were severe shortages of qualified teachers throughout the country.
And while the Timorese government is making significant inroads towards rebuilding its education sector, Julia believes there is still much to be done particularly at the grassroots level.
“As a trainer of teachers, I really want to see primary school teachers receive a lot more training in the future, especially in methodology and pedagogy skills,” she says.
Julia added that when it comes to teaching and learning, particularly in the early years, the focus should be on quality not quantity.
“I really want to work closely with other teachers, and also would like to see the number of students in the classroom reduce.
“Ideally, each of these classrooms would also have more than one teacher. That would ensure quality rather than quantity.”
It is now, more than ever, that Julia appreciates the important role of her knowledge and skills will play in enabling her to realise her personal vision for Timor-Leste.
“Since coming to study at Charles Darwin University, I have gained many different things – ideas, experiences, knowledge and skills – all of which I will bring back and share with my people, especially the teachers that I work with it,” she says.
Another significant benefit of Julia’s scholarship experience has been the opportunity to forge connections with people from all walks of life. Julia says she’s not only building her network with other future change agents from around the world she’s also learned be culturally sensitive enough to both make and take a joke.
This is not to say that her Australian experience has been without challenges, but the resourceful awardee said she simply found ways around them.
“One thing I find really challenging is dealing with assignments but I just learnt how to manage my time better as well as take advantage of the many support services available to us, and because I’m here by myself I have had to get to know people in other courses so I can talk about my assessment with them.”
Although she confesses to missing her family, Julia keeps busy by engaging in part-time work with the Catholic Education department of Darwin where she provides translation services for teachers who are working in Timor-Leste. Recently, Julia joined Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School as an Inclusive Support Assistant & After School Care and previously spent two weeks teaching at an Aboriginal school in Darwin. “The great thing about it is that I am able to work in an Australian classroom”, said Julia.