Operating an ELICOS College within the School sector, the pervasiveness and accessibility of the internet and social media in every part of the globe provides constant opportunities and challenges. The pace with which communities of interest appear, grow and disappear is constantly redefining student needs and experiences while at the same time creating greater opportunities to address these.
We are in the business of providing a contemporary education which prepares students for Global Engagement in the language of English.
In schools especially, this is a world to which we as educational providers must respond if we are to maintain the relevance of our educational offerings and prepare students for their future, and their place in the future globally-connected world, in whichever country they may find themselves.
And while face-to-face opportunities will continue to bring students together from across the globe, it is also the opportunities of the digital and virtual world that will provide the interaction which builds relationships and necessary language and communication skills to succeed in the global environment and especially in emerging geo-economic and political entities such as ASEAN.
On a recent flight from Bangkok, I read a report in the Bangkok Post on the challenges facing the next generation in their region since South East Asia had become a single community in 2015. The main point was that English skills, along with skills for global engagement, have now become paramount.
However, the article then went on to highlight the new-found mobility of youth and professionals who are able to seek educational and job opportunities outside their own country. At the same time, these countries will have to brace themelves for the challenges from regional competitors in their home country for positions in multi-national and international organisations that require English as the working language.
“Competitive edge” will be the key success factor for students in the ASEAN community. Students who have studied abroad (eg. Australia) will have the necessary communication skills to succeed in the ASEAN and wider global environment. This leads to “inbound” opportunities for Australia.
I also read the NEAS newsletter outlining the co-operation and collaboration between Australia and ASEAN which will provide the framework, opportunity and support for “outbound, off-shore and virtual” opportunities for Australian providers.
For Australian providers, collaborations in design, delivery, leadership and quality provide great opportunities, either physically or virtually.
For students, whether in-country or in Australia, mastering English, developing critical skills and strategic thinking, and furthering cross-cultural skills means that they will not only be prepared to adapt to changes, but thrive in this newly expanded environment of ASEAN.
And it is affirming that NEAS has a growing presence in this region, that membership is growing, that Leadership Development and Quality will be enhanced, thus ensuring greater opportunities for a greater Australian presence in the ASEAN region.
Russell Welch is the Foundation Director of John Paul International College and is a Board member for NEAS.