An innovative way for students to learn Greek is being used by language schools in Australia and the wider diaspora as part of the Greek Intercultural Education in the Diaspora program, funded by the European Union and Greek Ministry for Education.]
As part of this program, students not only flourish in both their verbal and written language skills but also create long life friends with fellow students studying Greek from all over the world.
But it’s the new phase of the program that was rolled out this year that has developed both the students’ language skills and technological skills while they chat with sister schools from all over the world including Greece, Canada, South Africa, South America, and North America.
Entitled e-Learning in the Greek Diaspora, the program connects principals, staff, teachers, students and the wider community of Greek language schools to communicate new learning techniques, enhance Greek language skills and chat with fellow students about life in other countries – all in Greek. The program as a whole – the learning communities – is coordinated by the University of Crete learning communities. The internet based sister classes are directed by Professor Vasileia Kazoullis from the Aegean University based in Rhodes.
The platform has the capability to upload all the Greek curriculum taught in the classrooms of the diaspora for students ranging from reception to year 12.
St George College’s Greek language teacher John Saredakis said this style of learning is incredibly beneficial for the language students.
“They become more confident in speaking Greek because they prepare for what they are going to say, they put effort and thought into it,” he told Neos Kosmos.
“They get to make a connection with the homeland which is very important. They become even more proud of their heritage because they are engaging with it, and it’s an opportunity to learn in a different way too – it’s very beneficial for them to learn in a technological way.”
The students are given tasks by the director of the internet-based classes and are given two to three weeks to work on them before presenting them. For example, one of the tasks was for the students to create a personal profile with a set list of questions to answer. The students then created a power point presentation to show students all over the world.
Mr Saredakis said what came out of this particular presentation was another kind of education the students can’t be taught in an ordinary classroom.
“They began asking each other questions,” he said, “such as what sports they like, the music they are into and what school is like for them.
“The students in Australia were really surprised Greek students learn so many languages and that they go to school out of hours in private tuition centres.”
He said the Greek students were proud of the students in Australia for knowing Greek so well, and that they keep the culture and language so strong in the diaspora, but also of the international students at St George College being able to speak Greek.
After the teleconferences, the students can still speak with the other students via an online classroom and they engage in further conversations. So in this way they are able to enhance their Greek writing skills.
Dr George Frazis, manager of Modern Greek at St George College, was there at the inception of the program and has seen it go from strength to strength each year. As it stands, St George College in South Australia this year has links with sister schools in Johannesburg, Northern Greece and Rhodes. And last year, the school was one of two that won a competition that saw 15 students enhance their Greek education in Rhodes.
Along with the School of Aristotle in Canada, the students had a chance to explore Rhodes and the surrounding regions and even connect face to face with students from the diaspora and compare notes. Most of the feedback given by the students was in relation to gaining a better understanding of the way Greek students learn and attend school, but also about culture. Anastasia commented that she learnt a new traditional Greek dance, while Yiannis said that he learnt how the Acropolis was made and that the Italians tried to restore it. In his feedback he also said: “Today we went to a place where there is an ancient water source which used to cure stomach pains. The water is yet to be found again since the ’30s.” The students also said they got to know their fellow students through cultural activities such as theatre and dance.
The program began in 1995, and was put together by the University of Crete in Rethymno, Crete. The director of the program from 1995 to 2011 was Professor Michael Damanakis but is now directed by Professor Aspa Hatzidakis