The Impact of an Immersion Programme in Cambodia for Australian Pre-Service Teachers

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Wendy Boyd
Cathy Lembke
Amanda Scott


Australian teachers are required to teach students from diverse cultures, and preservice teachers are reported to feel culturally unprepared. The Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan aims to increase pre-service teachers’ cultural competency by providing funding for cultural and educational experiences in the Asian-Pacific region. This paper reports on the impact a short-term cultural immersion programme in Cambodia had on the development of cultural competence for ten pre-service teachers. The programme included visits to Cambodian schools and a university, and cultural immersion activities such as Khmer lessons and visiting cultural icons. The cultural competency framework was used to analyse the impact of the programme on pre-service teachers’ cultural competence before, during, and after the programme. Findings show that the programme had a significant impact upon meaning-making as the pre-service teachers reflected upon their experiences in Cambodia. The use of focus groups was found to be powerful, supporting pre-service teachers in a safe environment to learn from each other. The article contributes to the growing interest in the effectiveness of immersion programmes in enhancing the development of cultural competency in pre-service teachers. Recommendations include evaluation of the long-term impact of such programmes on pre-service teacher cultural competence.


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