New Colombo plan helps Australians engage in the Indo-Pacific

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The study found that three-quarters of the New Colombo Plan (NCP) alumni surveyed worked in or with the most popular host countries of Japan, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, India, Singapore and Malaysia.

Lead author of the report, Professor Ly Tran, from Deakin University School of Education, said the results demonstrate the program’s success in building intercultural connections and regional engagement between young Australians with our Indo-Pacific neighbors.

Introduced in 2014 as a reciprocal initiative of the original Colombo Plan, which brought Asian students to Commonwealth countries on federally funded scholarships between 1951 and 1986, the NCP is jointly administered by the Ministry of Business Foreign Trade and the Department of Education and already has an alumni community of over 70,000 people.

Prof Tran said Australia was among the countries with the highest participation in learning abroad in the world, with around one in four Australian undergraduates (23%) participating in learning opportunities. international learning in 2019, compared to 7.4% in the UK and 16%. one hundred in the United States and nearly half (49 percent) were undergraduates studying in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Moving popular overseas learning destinations for Australian students from English-speaking countries to the Indo-Pacific is critical, as the Indo-Pacific countries are our closest neighbors and account for 41% of all Australian citizens born abroad. About 80 percent of Australia’s trade and the majority of our main export services, international education, are in this region, ”said Prof Tran.

“Building links with the Indo-Pacific is strategically important for Australia. The new Colombo plan aims to improve the regional understanding of young Australians, providing them with the opportunity to be exposed and gain experience in the Indo-Pacific.

Professor Tran’s Australian Research Council-funded project interviewed 1,371 NCP students and alumni and included 298 interviews with NCP-related stakeholders and fieldwork in the country. Research found that the main motivations for students to study abroad in the Indo-Pacific were to challenge themselves (96%), gain experience, and broaden their understanding of the Indo region. -pacific (96%), to get acquainted with another culture (96%) and to go to a new place (95%).

The most satisfied students were those who chose the short-term study or / and internship program from a minimum period of 14 days to less than one semester, over longer-term study options, because these allowed students to pursue university studies on a part-time basis. professional commitments and responsibilities at home. These students are exposed to a collective learning with their cohort and their host communities and have access to their academics as program managers 24/7 during short-term mobility. The report found that the impact of short-term mobility on student learning outcomes and development is similar to that of long-term mobility.

Two-thirds of students said the experience increased their interest in seeking employment in the Indo-Pacific, but while 89 percent agreed that the international learning experience was useful for their resumes, only 44 percent thought it was appreciated by their current employer.

Almost all of the students interviewed had traveled abroad before, but they still reported challenges associated with learning abroad, including mastering a new language, culture and adapting to foreign methods. teaching and learning.

Prof Tran said the report’s main recommendations included improving the consistency of the student experience, deepening engagement in partnership, and co-designing mobility programs with universities and host organizations in India. -pacific and harnessing student experiences to improve career progression and employability.

“Despite the challenges and areas for improvement, the new Colombo plan is a prime example of reverse mobility, rebalancing regional and global student mobility, through which students from a developed global North like Australia enrich their learning and experiences living and studying in the Indo-Pacific, ”said Professor Tran.

“The results show that formerly colonized Indo-Pacific countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei, Fiji and Papua New Guinea which were previously learning abroad destinations now offer powerful learning spaces for students from a Western country like Australia.

The results of the study, co-authored by Professor Ly Tran, Dr Huyen Bui and Ms Diep Nguyen, will be unveiled at the Symposium on Australian Student Mobility to the Indo-Pacific on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.

The Symposium includes speakers who are students, academic and mobility staff, Indo-Pacific hosts, government officials, third-party vendors, and professional organizations such as Scope Global and Mitsui & Co.

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