International engagement on Aussie schools’ agenda

Funded by the federal government, the comprehensive kit is described as a “map for schools to take a deep dive into global engagement”, with guidance on curriculum and pedagogy, suggested activities, case studies, and stories of what schools are already doing to engage.

“[It was important] that there was the right amount of information for people to get started”

“Every school in Australia is capable of and should be pursuing global engagement of some kind or other,” the toolkit suggested, as it laid out options for schools to “begin or enhance their global engagement”.

Graham Parr, associate dean international in the Faculty of Education at Monash said it was exciting to be able to create resources to support the journey starting earlier than the higher education sector, where the faculty usually operates.

“A globalising world brings lots of opportunities and exciting potential. But it also brings, as we’ve seen in a whole range of ways across the world, the potential for a kind of insularity and kind of a defensive attitude toward the ‘other’.

“Universities can do a lot when people are adults but we know – the literature makes really clear – that if you can begin a conversation in schools, in kids heads, that they actually are predisposed to want to learn about themselves,” he said.

Schools can “do really important work to help build the next generation of young people who are curious to find out about the world” if they are supported, Parr continued.

“[Schools can] also help build a generation that is interested and keen to find out about those who are not quite the same as they are and how they can work together, how they can learn from and with each other and contribute to a better world,” he suggested.

The process included understanding where institutions – including primary, secondary, state, independent and Catholic schools, as well as groups like Asia Education Foundation – were currently at in their global engagement process, and what the appetite, limitations and opportunities were.

“We were charged with drawing on all that information, knowledge, insight and experience and producing a practical, issues oriented toolkit that could help all schools.”

Parr said the toolkit needed to be relevant and accessible no matter what stage of the journey schools were on, and that the design of the interactive PDF was as carefully thought out as the content.

“We were keen to avoid some of the problems that had been there in the past. One was an artefact like this that was so jam packed, full of information and knowledge that it was kind of intimidating, and the other one that it had to be engaging, it had to be something which people can dip into.

“[It was important] that there was the right amount of information for people to get started and really to try to get a conversation started in the school,” he noted.

While the toolkit has been published online, there needs to be more work to be done to embed it into operations, Parr indicated.

“We would love to be able to work with groups of schools… across the country, getting these professional learning communities where people would come together to talk about their initiatives and facilitate their working and to try some of these different ideas out.”

“This is what we need to be doing in schools”

Global engagement be prioritised in the Australian curriculum, Parr suggested, as outlined in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and the more recent Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration.

“This is what schools need to be doing,” he said.

“It’s there in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is what we need to be doing in schools in the sense of things like literacy and preparing for literacy and numeracy and standardised tests has taken a very strong sort of front seat there and it’s tending to overwhelm the importance of this kind of work.”

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