Batchelor Institute » A new direction in life
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Date:June 06, 2012

A new direction in life



Sharna Motlap graduated from high school and was planning on taking a gap year before beginning study. Unfortunately the gap year didn’t go to plan. She was left feeling frustrated and without direction.

“I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew I wanted to go to uni but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study or how to get there. The gap year was meant to help me find my direction in life. But when that didn’t work out, my dad told me about PTS. It’s a course for Indigenous kids and I think that’s a really good thing.”

Sharna is now enrolled in the ‘Preparation for Tertiary Success’ (PTS) program – a course for Aboriginal and Islander people who want to improve their confidence and academic skills in order to be accepted into an undergraduate degree of their choice. The course is run through the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE) – a joint partnership between Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and Charles Darwin University. Students range in age from 18 to mid 50s. Travel, accommodation and meals are provided for students travelling from regional areas and interstate.

Indigenous people come from all over Australia to study PTS at campuses in the Desert People’s Centre in Alice Springs and in the Casuarina Campus in Darwin. For Sharna, this mix of people means a great deal. “I love PTS. I love being surrounded by Indigenous students and staff and hearing about their different cultures. You meet people of all backgrounds and ages and they all have their own story to tell. Through their experiences and understanding of the world I’ve learnt a lot about myself as an Indigenous person.”

The PTS course uses a ‘bothways’ approach to study – valuing the knowledge and skills that Aboriginal and Islander students already have and combining it with the academic knowledge and skills of mainstream study. The course also helps students develop strong study skills needed to complete assignments successfully. Sharna finds the emphasis on step by step learning in PTS makes a big difference to her ability to master the skills. “We’re writing essays in science now. It’s really helpful when the lecturer actually shows you the structure. It makes it a lot easier…it’s great to have that sort of assistance.”

Becoming a strong lifelong learner is another important part of PTS. Each unit assists students to develop skills in planning ahead and setting goals, asking questions, thinking critically, working together with other students and developing the resilience needed for completing a course. “I find studying the different ways of learning really helpful. You use different types of learning every day – to be able to actually break it down and analyse it is just so useful. I’ve learnt to like working in groups. It’s a big change to when I’ve last been in a class. Then I liked working on my own – strictly working by myself.”

“PTS has definitely made a big difference to me. It’s like being part of a big community here. You learn so much. A lot of uni lecturers come to talk to us about their different subjects and share their own stories. Another great thing is having lecturers for friends on the PTS Facebook page. For instance, I’ll put up a message about doing my assignment and I’ll always have comments from my PTS lecturers.”

These days, Sharna Motlap is full of possibilities. “It’s changed my life and helped me find a new direction. I did have my heart set on architecture but since I started PTS I’ve changed my mind. As far as job options go, I’m now looking at science. Now when people ask me what I’m doing since I left high school, I can actually tell them I’m doing something great. I don’t feel like I just graduated from high school and am wasting my time any more. PTS has certainly broadened my horizons.”