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School of the Air
school lessons by radio for outback students

Adelaide Miethke was vice-president of the South Australian wing of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a former inspector of girl's schools. In 1946 she noticed that outback children were very good at using the Flying Doctor two-way radio. Those same children often lived a long way from schools and had to board, or study by correspondence, or travel for ages every day to get to school.

Miethke put two and two together and used her skill as an adminstrator and her influence to start the School of the Air, a way of bringing the classroom into outback homes via radio. Teachers would sit at a radio transceiver and talk to students one at a time about lessons that had been sent to them by mail. The rest of the 'class' listened in.

The first lessons were transmitted from the Alice Springs Flying Doctor Base in 1949 and the Alice Springs School of the Air was founded in 1951. Other schools followed and by the 1980s a dozen of them served students dotted over 1.5 million square kilometres of the country.

Experts from the School of the Air have advised other countries on distance education. Today, new technologies such as satellites, computers, fax and email have been introduced to improve communication between students and teachers.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
South Australian Correspondence School : teaching

Royal Flying Doctor Service : communications
Key People
Adelaide Miethke : originator
Leslie Dodd : teacher
Graham Pitts : RFDS director

Further Reading
School of the Air
Jean Ashton
Rigby, Adelaide, 1978.

Mount Isa School of the Air. Listen to some lessons on radio
Alice Springs School of the Air
Katherine School of the Air
Western Australia Schools of the Air
Port Augusta School of the Air
Port Headland School of the Air

Related Innovations
Royal Flying Doctor Service

A student engaged in a lesson at Broken Hill School of the Air. Courtesy School of the Air and Souvenirs Australia Pty Ltd.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum