"The Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) and the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) are two like-minded organisations passionate about promoting inclusion and belonging through programs, events, leadership and advocacy" said Victorian Multicultural Commissioner Bwe Thay.
On Thursday, 21 May, to mark World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, the two organisations teamed up to host a Twitter chat to acknowledge the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of education in promoting intercultural dialogue and understanding amongst young people.
Led by Victorian Multicultural Commissioner Bwe Thay and Asia Education Foundation’s Education Programs Coordinator, Brendan Hitchens, the conversation featured the input of teachers, principals, academics and educational organisations from Australia and the Asia-Pacific.
A Global Conversation
Over the hour, the rich discussion covered a breadth of topics including how technology is connecting communities, the importance of diverse classroom texts, the role of school values in promoting respect, and the power of curriculum and education.
“For many new and emerging communities, education gives them self-empowerment and ability to learn. It gives people the opportunity to thrive and give back to the new community. So, both sides benefit from this upskilling and education,” said Bwe. “As a refugee, education has played a critical part in my reskilling.” Brendan agreed, drawing reference to The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration, which was launched in December of 2019 as the national vision for education.
“As the document outlines, education is vital to the prosperity of the nation and as such must be seen as a partnership between all stakeholders, including government, education departments, schools and the community” he said.
“The very first goal of the declaration is that the Australian education system promotes excellence and equity, which includes ensuring that, ‘education promotes and contributes to a socially cohesive society that values, respects and appreciates different points of view and cultural, social, linguistic and religious diversity.’” “This intercultural understanding is certainly as necessary as biodiversity is to nature,” added Brisbane based high-school teacher Nelia Manansala.
“Education should advocate multiculturalism. It shouldn’t only take into centre stage what the national curriculum entails but include in its agenda programs that strengthen social harmony, intercultural understanding and positive relationships among peoples of the world. Tolerance, empathy and respect for diversity are great gifts we can teach a growing child.”
We have the opportunity to be more connected with the world and each other than ever before. Picture Getty Images.
Australia is a multicultural country and such diversity is reflected in classrooms
The 2016 census data revealed that almost half (49%) of all Australians were either born overseas (first generation) or have at least one parent born overseas (second generation).
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is yet another opportunity to reflect on global perspectives and tools to amplify intercultural skills and mindsets.
“There are so many rich perspectives, stories, and real-world activities we can engage in, that bring us closer to not just dealing with cultural diversity but embracing it as a deep learning experience for intercultural dialogue. Engaging with cultural diversity and reflecting on these experiences are important to us all and help ensure our learners’ next steps are productive ones,” said Asia Education Foundation executive director, Hamish Curry.
With students across Victoria slowly returning to face-to-face learning this week, the conversation was also a timely moment to reflect on how technology has connected families and communities and provided an opportunity to enhance both the intercultural skillset and mindset of students.
Students of today are technologically savvy, critical and divergent thinkers. Picture: AEF
“Learning remotely has seen a bump in people finding ways to connect to each other including outside of schools... The opportunity to have conversations and open dialogue is golden,” said Wollongong educator, Justine Poidevin.
Year Five teacher, Emma Thompson, echoed the sentiments. “With increased isolation, we became more connected. School spaces have blurred lines with places that keep our traditions, family, and identity - home is an intimate place for many.
To see a recap of the event, visit Twitter Chat and add your insights with #AEFchat.