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Opinion: A Global Education Pledge For Australian Schools


Opinion: A Global Education Pledge For Australian Schools

by Sarah Richardson

Students at Corinda State High School in Queensland recently planted a pomegranate tree to recognise their partnership with Shanghai Zhiyuan Middle School in China.

This was a partnership fostered through the Australia-China Digital BRIDGE program, funded by the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations. The tree is a manifestation of a relationship between two schools, and also a symbol of the need to nurture the ability of young Australians to engage positively with our region.

Such opportunities are sadly few and far between, in the school sector at least. The University sector, however, has begun to enact long-espoused claims about providing students with a global education, and perhaps this is a model for schools to follow. 

Australian university claims about regional engagement have long been characterised through students recruitment and the establishment of campuses in the region. An overdue re-definition of how they view our region is now underway, however. The language of partnership abounds in the research space. Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne’s new Global Education Pledge “guarantees students opportunities to participate in a wide range of international, Indigenous and intercultural education experiences”. The University of Melbourne is not the first university to make this commitment, and nor will it be the last.

The Global Education Pledge encapsulates the imperative of equipping future Australian leaders with the skills required to contribute to solving global challenges. It reflects a pressing need to ensure that contemporary curricula are informed by global and cross-cultural perspectives. And it underscores the need for young Australians to learn how to work collaboratively with their peers from around the world. All of these demands are equally important in the school sector, extending the time available for students to build the knowledge, skills and attributes to successfully engage with our region. This suggests the need for an equivalent Global Education Pledge for Australian schools.

Individual schools cannot be expected to lead the charge. Nor can State and Territory governments, struggling to bolster a beleaguered teacher workforce. Instead, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Federal Government. Since 2015, however, no Federal Government strategy has been in place to enhance the regional engagement of schools across Australia. A lucky few get to participate in programs like Australia-China BRIDGE, but the majority miss out.

This at odds with statements by senior Federal Government representatives who frequently allude to the importance of strengthening regional relationships. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stated that “deepening Australia’s engagement with Southeast Asia is a key priority for my Government”. Education is necessarily a route to strengthened relationships. Reflecting this, the Moore report on investing in Southeast Asia recommends increased funding in “teaching language and cultural awareness to school and university students”.

Thus far however the Prime Minister and his government have yet to provide any targeted funding for schools in the form of a global education pledge. Perhaps they need to look to previous Labor governments for inspiration. The Keating Government allocated $206 million to create the National Asian Languages and Studies in Australia School (NALSAS) Strategy. This enabled schools to establish language and cultural programmes in Indonesian, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin. Similarly, the Rudd Government established the National Asian Language and Studies In Schools Program (NALSSP) which allocated $68 million to enhance the study of the languages and cultures of China, India, Japan and Indonesia.

After close to a decade of neglect, it is time that the Federal Government in Australia looked outward rather than purely inward when shaping its support for schools. The rise of Asia and the Pacific is becoming ever more consequential for Australia, our region and beyond. While Australia is well positioned to manage, influence and leverage this power shift, many Australians remain ill prepared to do so.

Without a national plan to support enhanced regional engagement in our schools, we leave our national interest to chance. Deep relationships with Asia and the Pacific are essential to Australia’s future prosperity and security. We need a coordinated national response to ensure that students in primary and secondary schools across the country have ample opportunities to build the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need to engage with our region, and to nurture community harmony within Australia.

Dr Sarah Richardson is the Executive director of the Asia Education Foundation

Leading private school launches groundbreaking global education initiative | The Educator K/12 (theeducatoronline.com)


What does ‘preparing students for the future’ really mean? | The Educator K/12 (theeducatoronline.com)



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