Fowlers Bay - South Australia

We took a road trip from Vic to WA and followed the coast roads and crossed the Nullarbor Plain. 7352 kms had us spy some amazing sights including this big manta ray cruising the shallows in Fowlers Bay SA.

The Cambodian Loop

Roughly the outline of our two week ride through the jungles of Cambodia in 2015.

North Vietnam

Random pics from the camera on the handlebars of my Honda 250 dirt bike

Globalization and one step toward changing the world

There are lots of definitions or variations on definitions of Globalization but the one that resonates with me is from Swedish journalist Thomas Larsson, in his book The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization.

“is the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world”

At IPS whether you’re a student, parent, grandparent, carer, staff member you already know this. It is in your face everyday through any number of media sources. 24/7 365 days a year. 

Try this. Google “what's happening in the world right now?” and halfway down the very first page of results you’ll find “worldometers – realtime world statistics”  Live world statistics on population, government and economics, society and media, environment, food, water, energy and health. Interesting statistics with world population clock, forest loss this year, carbon dioxide

Couple this capacity to access (and create new knowledge) with Thomas Larson’ definition of Globalization and surely there isn't anything we can't do. Cure cancer, mastermind world peace, eradicate hunger and provide quality education to everyone on planet Earth.

In another part of the world much of the knowledge we access and use in our curriculum means little or nothing at all. Vietnam has 53 ethnic minorities comprising 14 percent of the population and by nearly every measure the minorities lag far behind the rest of the Vietnamese people in such areas as wealth,  nutrition and pretty much everything else. This is true of education as well: 25 percent of Vietnamese children complete middle school, while only 15 percent of minorities do. Half of the Hmong people never even attend school (compared with 3 percent of the major Vietnamese) and with only 38 percent knowing how to read. This story is repeated in many Asian countries like Cambodia and Thailand.

When Mr McKay and I set off to northern Vietnam we had a plan to visit a number of small primary schools to see if we could make a difference that might lead to small improvements for kids in far away places that only know the world to be the extent of the valley in which they live. We met children in one Hmong village so far off the main road that we knew would never leave that community, would do the work that their parents, do using the same tools that their forbears had used for a thousand years. Until 'globalization’  absorbs the land on which they reside. What is disturbing is history tells us that unless you have an adequate education to cope and meet with change your chances of survival are greatly lessened.

The first school we visited was beyond SaPa, 3000 ft above sea level high in the mountains. We brought with us phys ed equipment, toothbrushes and toothpaste, notepads and pencils, food and toys. Even though it was pouring rain, and a Saturday, many of the children had trekked many kilometres to see these strange looking teachers from Australia and their big motorcycles. My contact in Melbourne had already provided me with a letter of introduction in Vietnamese to explain our purpose. The teachers were keen and proud to show us their classrooms and the student accommodation built mainly through donations from people like us that enabled the students to attend school five days a week. 

The only person that spoke English was my friend and fellow biker Linh who did his best to interpret for both parties. The language barrier meant little as we used smiles, gestures and hugs to communicate. This seemed to work pretty well.

Their resources consisted of little more than a single laptop for teacher use, damp and aging text books and some chalk boards. Mr McKay and I amazed them with our geographical depictions of Australia and English words in flowing Victorian cursive script. *editors note Mr Kent failed chalkboard in second year uni and had to repeat this.

In Vietnam children bring their own seat to school on Monday and carry it home on Friday. Most are red plastic. Having a decent seat is considered a luxury.

We left having sown the seed for a relationship with our school back in Ivanhoe. On a personal note I plan to contribute to the improvement of the students accommodation via my new found contact at the school.

The second school we visited was a Hmong school only accessible via single track through high mountain passes. Mr McKay fashioned a Vietnamese flag to fly from the rear of his bike as we journeyed through the hills and rough terrain to a school and a village that didn't even have a name. My friend Linh had made inquiries with local people to arrange for the teacher to meet us at the base of the mountain to guide us through an increasingly impenetrable landscape.

Once again we had shopped wisely. Mr McKay adding 25 skipping ropes to his arsenal of donatable PE equipment. Our trail bikes looked a little like Santa’s sleighs packed with our school items. On more than one occasion locals had to help us un bog our bikes as they sank in the mud and loose soil. They cheered and hooted as we made our way higher into the hills where the tracks meandered and diverged. These had clearly been made by and for animals rather than machines but were great fun to ride on.


When we arrived there were 25 tiny terrified children waiting for us on small plastic chairs in a small mud hut / classroom. After their teachers introduced us they relaxed a little and we distributed the gifts to students who were clearly overwhelmed. Balls, let alone skipping ropes, weren't anywhere to be seen and as for school materials they didn't seem to exist. 

I couldn't help feeling that school was little more than a child minding service for families who needed to tend their crops and cattle. Mr McKay valiantly attempted to teach skipping and the growing crowd of onlookers enjoyed the show. I had taken with me a copy of our IPS book “Slab Hut to Red Brick” and presented it as a gift to the head teacher and the school without a name. I suspect it will be well revered and my hope is that maybe someone might use it to improve their reading skills.

Leading this journey has reminded me very much of the importance of education. More so the importance of the “right education”. Clearly the education we practice at IPS is different to that practiced in SaPa or Hmong and that is as it should be. I do believe there are important parallels such as literacy and numeracy but above all school communities wherever they are need to be vigilant and look at needs balanced with opportunity and potential. Sure we need to understand globalization and the notion of distance and things becoming closer but as an enabler so we can “…can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world”. 

I'm reminded of the starfish parable which goes something like this. 

Once upon a time, there was an old man walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching who paused every so often to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “May I ask what you are doing?”

The young boy replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and when the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “There are thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “I made a difference to that one!”

 Mr McKay and I didn't set out to change the world but we did set out to make a small difference and that we did. Sometimes it is very hard to know where to start. If we all set our minds on making a small difference then someday we just might cure cancer, mastermind world peace, eradicate world hunger and provide quality education to everyone on the planet.

Finally as I lie in hospital back in Australia writing this for the newsletter and lamenting my broken foot that was a direct result of our endeavours I cant help but think it was still so very worthwhile. The only thing I would have changed is where I put my foot down having discovered a local person had parked their vehicle right in my path to watch our progress. 

I wish you a fabulous start to term four and I look forward to being back at school soon and hearing about what you have been up to. 

Mark Kent


Steve McQueen on Safety Gear

Steve Mc Queen ride on a Honda CR250M Elsinore. A throw back to earlier times. How cool is the terrain and the riding. Safety gear was a helmet and boots. 


Angkor Wat

At  the end of our ride in Cambodia in 2015 we got tuk tuks from our hotel and headed off to explore Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. What a fitting way to finish a fantastic journey through an incredible country.