Hamish Curry, Executive Director, Asia Education Foundation
There are only a few moments in history where the whole world knows exactly what you’re talking about. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of them.
The global loss of life, disruption, tragedy, and separation has been terrifying for billions of people. Fortunately, this has been matched by global collaboration, empathy, support, and creativity bridging governments and industries, like education, to navigate uncertain pathways and opportunities.
2020 has been the most explicit example of ‘yin and yang’ – the ancient Chinese philosophy of dualism, where positive and negative forces flow with one another. Together they generate the kind of wisdom needed to understand the global perspectives of 2020.
2020 has tested us all. To take responsibility. To develop resilience. To find a way through. Crisis brings out the best (and sometimes the worst) in people. The compulsion to retreat and be insular offset by the willingness to reach out and be compassionate.
Our experiences at Asia Education Foundation (AEF) have been like a roller coaster; a description that’s been used by many people I’ve interacted with this year. Like an extreme and turbulent ride that we often don’t feel in control of, but it’s a roller coaster we can ride out together and look to mitigate our fears.
AEF navigated many twists and turns in 2020. The transition to greater digital engagement programs saw incredible efforts by educators across many countries to connect and share their stories and their ideas. Hundreds of educators across Indonesia, India, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, China, and many others contributed their time and work with educators and students across Australia. There were podcasts and broadcasts on international education partnerships, equity in education, and global competence to name a few. We engaged students in online discussions and debates around Australia about global issues, their aspirations for education, and their Asia-Pacific neighbourhood. We have also been activating our next three-year strategic plan, with many of these 2020 programs, initiatives, and networks propelling us forward in our goals.
Into 2021, we will be carrying a lot of insights and lessons on ways to develop connections, on designing learning, and our deep ties to Asia-Pacific. Intercultural learning is a wide and diverse spectrum of ways we can engage with the world around us. From languages, to art, storytelling and STEM – intercultural learning challenges our mindsets in what we understand about seemingly ‘foreign’ people and concepts. The dualism of intercultural learning opens us to greater skillsets, expanding our capabilities and confidence to interact and navigate better relationships locally and with our Asia-Pacific neighbourhood.
In the words of legendary Indian principal, Dr Ameeta Mulla Wattal, we must also ‘grow our heartset’, valuing the emotional journey as truly life changing.
2020 has been life changing, in a fierce and frantic duality. It has left us exhausted and exhilarated at what we achieved in spite of the barriers. As many educators would attest, this is what counts for ‘authentic learning’ – real world choices and collaboration.
For all learners who navigated 2020, you came out wiser. And a wiser world can only be a good thing.
On behalf of the AEF Advisory Council and our incredible multi-talented team, my profound thanks to our many participants, partners, collaborators and supporters.
From all of us here, we wish you a safe and happy festive season!
Mr Hamish Curry
Executive Director, Asia Education Foundation