By Salome R.
The Australian Government recently commissioned a strategic framework to secure its economic stability in the future. The Asian Century White Paper outlines the policy initiatives Australia aims to develop in the course of the next five years to strengthen its integration with Asian markets. The idea is to make Australia increase its capabilities to engage in multitudes of activities with Asian countries, particularly in matters of economy, environment, science and technology, business and education. Naturally, in development work, education plays a significant role in macro-level transformations. The Australian Government seeks to take advantage of this instrumental endeavor to achieve its proposed plans in making Australia a competitive nation in Asia and in the world. Australia has already made steps to increase its “Asia Capabilities” by focusing on its citizens’ education.
The video below captures Australian Education Minister, Peter Garrett, visiting a primary school where children are taught Mandarin Chinese. Garrett’s visit was intended to promote this new vision of Australia among its citizens to include Asian studies and languages in Australian schools’ education objectives. The former British territory aims to integrate itself with other neighboring Asian countries, starting with Australian citizen’s education.
In addition to early childhood development, thousands of Australian college students are given educational grants to study abroad in Asia. Australia’s The Gillard Government is offering $2,000 to $5,000 to students who study overseas in Asia for a semester, and a separate $1,000 for language training.
I initially got excited over this new endeavor that Australia is undertaking. My previous experience as an exchange student from the U.S. to Japan during my adolescence is likely the reason behind my excitement. I had a great time adventuring the rural areas of Japan and learning the multifaceted dimensions of its culture. Hence, I promote that kind of education to anyone, as it presents life-changing opportunities that can broaden a person’s wealth of knowledge and perspective. It consequently fosters relationships among its citizens and develop a deep appreciation for each others’ cultures.
I also found it quite refreshing, as this news is contrary to the domineering quality of Western influence over Non-Western countries. Australia adopts a seemingly backwards-neocolonialism in this endeavor, with its aims to form relationships with its Asian neighbors by encouraging its citizens to immerse in Asian studies. I am, however, interested in the results of this initiative. How much of an impact would incorporating Asian literacy in Australian citizens’ education have on Australia’s intended objectives to be “Asia capable”? What does it even mean to be “Asia capable” or Asian-literate? Whatever their conceptions of these terms mean, there seems to be an assumption surrounding the effects of citizens’ literacy training on economic development that needs to be addressed. Just because citizens are given access to educational resources does not definitively mean that it would produce intended outcomes. An ethnographic research on literacy programs in Brazil for youth and adults, for instance, showed weak correlations between citizens’ literacy education and national development (Bartlett, 2008). The quality of education that institutions provide individuals must meet a level of standard to produce intended outcomes. This requires an active engagement in program evaluation, research and constant development (or re-development) to make sure of effectiveness in meeting objectives. This is because intentions alone do not allot success, particularly in the field of development work. However, in my opinion, exposing students to different cultures and giving them opportunities to learn from different contexts to experience cultures other than their own enrich individuals in a multitude of ways. But to measure and quantify the results of such endeavor in order to help achieve some type of economic outcome is not only difficult, but it also reduces the quality of human experiences to a mere monolithic dimension. It is educating citizens for the sole purpose of economic growth. Why is it that money poured in education seems to be highly motivated by the sole purpose of achieving economic gains? Education should not be simplified to just that. I say, let education be the ultimate purpose, and nothing else.
Australian Government Releases Asian Century White Paper
Australia in the Asian Century
Bartlett, L. (2008). Literacy’s verb: Exploring what literacy is and what literacy does. International Journal of Educational Development, 28(6).
The Gillard Government
More Than 10,000 Students Asia Bound