Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself – John Dewey.
Education plays a crucial role in transforming individuals into furnished future leaders. It is the key to recognizing one’s potential while empowering them to build a pathway towards a bright career. Accordingly, they focus all their endeavors on attaining the best possible education. Thus, emerges the requirement of elite educational institutions, which teach the students with dedication and equal attention towards the current industry scenario and trends.
An excellent education organization whose prime focus is to develop intercultural learning and build future leaders in the Asia Education Foundation (AEF). Situated at Parkville, Australia, it was established in 1992 as a collaboration between Asialink, the University of Melbourne, and Education Services Australia. Asialink has established different ventures such as Asialink Arts, an institution, which develops opportunities for artistic cultural exchanges between Australia and Asia. Asialink Diplomacy bringing together Australia’s leading academics, commentators, business people, and diplomats with their counterparts in Asia, to discuss bilateral and regional relations. Additionally, Asialink Business develops Asia capability between Australian and Asian businesses and economies. These institutions are situated at Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne. AEF works to equip schools with intercultural understanding and skills, largely by connecting them with schools right across Asia.
Accordingly, the Foundation offers a variety of programs and resources aimed at supporting schools in the teaching of Asian studies and languages. It also provides international opportunities for Australian educators to visit Asian countries and enrich their perspectives and networks. AEF has conducted many comprehensive nationwide research projects, analyzing and exploring student engagement in languages, teacher training issues, and curriculum resources.
A Dedicated Frontrunner
A leader who spearheaded AEF towards the heights of excellence is none other than Kathe Kirby, who was Executive Director for 23 years. Since the inception of the Foundation, she has been instrumental in advocating for stronger intercultural mindsets and skillsets of students and educators. She has led many educators on study programs in Asia and has conducted meetings with national and international leaders, politicians, and has assisted in enacting Australian education policies and curriculum. Kathe has pushed for Asian studies and languages in schools throughout this time, supporting the 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians to seed changes in national curriculum on Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.
A Haven of Academic Excellence
AEF has been delivering excellent student programs over the years, while gradually embracing various high impact offerings. As a part of its Go Global suite of youth services, it includes an Australia-ASEAN Youth Forum and a Global Goals Youth Forum which encourage students to further deepen their understanding of the Asian region. The Australia-ASEAN Youth Forum supports high school students to research and debate regional issues from the perspective of an ASEAN member state and Australia with the aim to reach mutually agreeable solutions through negotiation.
High school and primary school students can also participate in a Global Goals Youth Forum. Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) led through a design thinking process students are supported to propose innovative ideas and solutions for our global community. The Foundation has more recently created a new youth forum called STEMing from Asia. This new full day interative forum provides students with the opportunity to explore industries and innovation from China, South Korea, and Japan in order to connect their existing learnings with new STEM knowledge in order to propose innovative STEM-based solutions to pressing contemporary challenges.
In 2019, AEF expanded its youth programs into longer term engagements, with programs like Global City Generation and HarvestEd designed to work with cohorts of students over 6-12 months, linking them to key networks and businesses in order to address cultural and economic challenges around Australia. The Foundation is also communicating with students across the Indo-Pacific to add further value and information into these types of programs, supporting peer-to-peer engagement.
AEF has also created hundreds of aligned curriculum resources for many learning areas on their website, which support teachers and students to engage with content and perspectives from Asia.
It marches ahead with the plan to consolidate and repurpose these digital resources and continue prototyping new digital services that support both youth and education leaders to network on intercultural learning and global issues.
Ensuring Educational Development
Various programs offered by the Foundation focus on enhancing the skills of teachers and students alike. It conducts BRIDGE (Building Relationships through Intercultural Dialogue Growing Engagement) international program, which promotes school partnerships between students, teachers, and school communities. It was first funded in 2008 by the Australian Government and the Myer Foundation. BRIDGE teachers and students collaborate on projects, practice language skills, and develop lifelong friendships with students at their partner school.
This program also implements a blended model of teacher professional learning, face-to-face, online learning, and an international homestay program with partner schools. Additionally, it supports teachers to use technologies, which help their classrooms to connect to the world. BRIDGE develops students to be global citizens who have:
- deeper intercultural understanding
- real-life digital capability
- new knowledge of Asia and Australia
- strengthened language skills
Since its establishment, BRIDGE has proven itself as an efficient model, which uses pedagogies and technologies to connect Australian classrooms with the world across the Indo-Pacific. The program revolutionizes teacher practices, empowers students, and builds long-term school community connections with the region. This program spans for 12 months comprising an in-depth teacher professional learning program with Australian and international educators. They co-design a plan to work together, experience reciprocal exchanges of their school and community contexts, and engage their students and colleagues in their projects.
Comprising nearly 1,000 schools across the BRIDGE network, these partnerships last well beyond their 12-month program, resulting in long-term relationships in education and intercultural learning.
BRIDGE builds students’ and teachers’ –
- Knowledge of the Indo-Pacific (Australian Curriculum Cross-curriculum priority)
- Worldview and Global Competence (OECD PISA priority)
- Languages proficiency and purpose
- Intercultural understanding and empathy
- Use of new technologies in learning
- Communication and collaboration skills
- Friendships and lifelong networks
Throughout its journey of pursuing academic excellence, AEF has achieved many noteworthy landmarks. In 2016, it was recognized with the Best Practice Award from the International Education Association Australia. This was largely due to the significant work it had done to establish long-term school partnerships across the Indo-Pacific. The BRIDGE School Partnerships Program has been one of AEF’s most successful ventures, with significant investment from the Australian Government in linking Australian schools with Asia.
The Future Milestones
AEF marches ahead confidently towards the next horizon. The Foundation’s primary focus is to help young individuals to thrive in the global arena. It plans to join new networks and develop more partnerships to provide students with more intercultural experiences, that open up their perspectives and pathways to the world around them. AEF is also working closely with various education sectors and governments to offer global citizenship courses for school leaders which create strong outcomes in building pragmatic intercultural school communities.
The Foundation will also leverage its networks across the Indo-Pacific region to collaborate on offshore education programs that link with Australia. With the objective of bringing the world closer to world-class education, AEF focuses on strategic and experiential programs and digital services that bring Australian education closer in collaboration with its diverse, ambitious, and experienced neighbors across the region.
Mission Statement: The foundation equips young people with intercultural learning to navigate global complexity and negotiate their role in communities across Australia, our region and the world.