A global education is key to ensuring everyone belongs.
As we celebrate Harmony Day in Australia, and acknowledge the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we should consider both what it will take to create a greater sense of inclusiveness, respect and belonging, as well as why this matters so much at this moment in time.
The most powerful platform for achieving this is education. It always has been. However, more than ever before, the core purpose of education needs to be recognised and restored at an urgent pace, particularly as it relates to building a thriving global society, environment and economy.
All educators, including our own at Torrens University Australia, must rise to the challenge of providing every student with a global education. Regardless of where or how they might attend class or who they might learn alongside. Not every student will sit in a traditional classroom with a rich variety of cultures, languages, religions and perspectives represented. Not every student will have the opportunity to travel beyond Australia to have their senses and imagination awakened by all that is similar and all that is different in far corners of the world. This in no way diminishes the need to give every student an education that equips them to fulfil their role as a true global citizen.
This means being able to participate in the global economy and to have a voice on issues that matter. It’s understanding that new rules apply. We are no longer educating students with the sole outcome of job-readiness, we are educating a generation who will need to adapt, innovate, and most importantly, understand they have a responsibility to use what they learn and what they know to create good in the world.
We need systems that empower and equip educators to react and respond to need and opportunity. Like our Brazilian colleagues Fatima Casa Nova and Alessandra Bahia who shut down classrooms (in Recife, Brazil) at the epicenter of the Zika virus outbreak, and instead opened clinics in communities of greatest need to provide holistic care and intervention to families most affected. This demonstrated to students that learning and contributing should not be seen as separate. As educators, we must strive to create experiences for our students that have both an academic outcome and a positive social outcome.
This is as true for mature age learners as it is for learners in the earliest years and this is a challenge for our kindergartens through to our universities and TAFEs.
Our own international network of universities was founded on the belief that “when students succeed, societies prosper and countries benefit”. For close to 20 years we have explored what this means and how this might be achieved. Within a university environment such as ours, we place great value on traditional measures such as employability outcomes, and need to do more to define and promote outcomes that reflect the change that is most needed.
On Harmony Day, we celebrate the one million students we enrol around the world, and the students from 78 countries we have here with us at Torrens University in Australia. We also celebrate and value the benefits that diversity brings – it inspires us to be creative and innovative, it brings new and different perspectives and ideas, and importantly, promotes inclusiveness. At Torrens University, everyone belongs.
The promise we make today to each one of our students is that we will be as disruptive, creative and purpose-driven as possible to ensure they understand the potential and responsibility they have to use education to change the world. We invite other educators to join us in this challenge.
President, Torrens University Australia
CEO Laureate Australia