The Northwest Territory is a very large state that stretches from the center of the country to the Northern shorelines. In towns like Alice Springs, there are state-supported elementary and secondary schools, much like we have in the USA. However, there are families that live in extremely remote areas. If children live more than 45 km from the nearest available school, they are eligible to enroll in the School of the Air.
The School of the Air is just what it sounds like…. Families must purchase laptops, satellite dishes, and a couple other things. The school broadcasts lessons from their Alice Springs studio, and sends out weekly paper lessons. Kids come to the school three times each year for exams, athletic festivals, and parent-teacher coordination. Teachers also make home visits and stay overnight with the families. The school’s administrator told us horror stories about some of these drives, usually involving road blockages that resulted in 17 hour detours with three young children in the car. By the way, if a road is closed due to flooding, it is a $3,000 fine to drive your car on these back dirt roads.
The map above shows the dots for the the nation’s schools of the air. The pink circle is the range for this particular school. You’ll notice that it overlaps into parts of two other states.
Alice Springs has been at the forefront of communication technology since its inception. What began with a transcontinental telegraph in the 19th century has become the pearl of educational telecommunication. The teachers and families seem very committed to the model. We heard examples of families who relocated to Africa who remained in the program. The teachers, however much they might have liked, were excused from making the home visits.