Mr Hamish Curry
Executive Director, Asia Education Foundation
Three years ago, in the western suburbs of Sydney, I was working with a group of primary school students to redevelop their playground. That was - until the youngest student in the group made the astute observation that “playground” is a compound word. Immediately, students started designing their grounds to be better for play, rather than just a pre-packaged playground. I’ve never forgotten that lesson - the ideas of our young Australians and the power of fresh perspective.
It was with this fresh perspective, that the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) built its new strategy to address the benefits a world-class education can offer.
Without understanding and experiences in our region, school leaders and educators will lack perspectives on the world, students will know token elements of cultural festivals, stereotypical histories of Asia-Pacific and barely any of the ethnic roots of their peers and communities rather than contemporary growth. Without perspectives on the world, learning a second language lacks the priority it deserves, intercultural learning is lumped with the languages department, and global citizenship is written in values or goals and poorly actioned. Without linking the world to world-class education, we are building only half the learning we are capable of.
In complete contrast, this year I’ve had the immense privilege to witness the impact of intercultural learning around Australia and the region with the AEF. Most notably, through our flagship BRIDGE School Partnerships Program. Launching 2018, our ASEAN chapter was delivered alongside the momentous ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, bringing together close to 100 educators from across Australia and all ten ASEAN member states for an intensive development program initiating their international school partnerships. In 2018, BRIDGE also celebrated its 10-Year Anniversary of forming people-to-people links with an intimate event at our first BRIDGE school in Surabaya, Indonesia and hosted its inaugural Australia-Pacific chapter. Read more about our international school partnerships here.
Equipping scores of schools and school leaders with the knowledge, skills, and networks required to form a deep understanding of intercultural learning to prepare students to be global citizens - we’ve built on our suite of inbound and outbound programs for educators to ensure deep learning, thinking, and development of school change initiatives. Some highlights include, our six-month Building Global Citizenship Course which took Victorian school leaders on a journey of discovery. Facilitated learnings and experiencing China under a new lens, participants were guided to set ambitious and deliberate steps in motion to lead change in their school communities. Our growing partnership with Yutong Culture Centre delivered tailored offerings focusing on special education, our work with Melbourne Graduate School of Education developed measurement tools for intercultural capabilities, and some innovative prototypes of potential digital services have set AEF up well to continue pushing the boundaries of a more globally-orientated education into 2019. Read more about our immersive learning programs here.
Perhaps though the best emergent shift has been in our growing work with young Australians. I am privileged to engage with a range of impressive young Australians, across the length and breadth of this country, with astounding ideas, perspectives and responses to societal and planetary challenges. Through numerous youth forums across Australia, consultative meetings, and school projects, young Australians have demonstrated the critical and creative thinking needed to navigate global complexity and develop stronger intercultural skills. As one student put it, “This forum was overall an amazing and rare opportunity to gain a realistic perception in how education applies to the real world. The best part of the forum was hearing different stories, perspectives and opinions and seeing this come together into a plan to solve an issue.” However, it is telling that this student described it as ‘rare’. Giving students even more agency and opportunities to network and develop the empathy and resolutions for their regional neighbours is driving us harder than ever. Read more about our youth agency work here.
In 2019, AEF will co-design new initiatives to support our refreshed strategic direction, scaling the impact and advocacy of a world class education. This will materialise in the form of innovative programs and learning resources to highlight different ways of developing the global capabilities of our educators and young Australians. With the support of our board, our colleagues at Asialink at the University of Melbourne and partners, I am confident we have the pieces in place to refocus education on the needs of our world like never before.
On behalf of the AEF Board of Directors and our multi-talented team, my profound thanks to our many partners, collaborators and supporters.
From all of us here, we wish you a safe and happy festive season!