Colombo II: Send students to Asia but don’t ignore the Asian students at home
Gothard, J. (2013) Colombo II: Send students to Asia but don’t ignore the Asian students at home. The Conversation, 26 September .
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Now it’s in government, the Coalition says one of its top priorities is international education. Along with policies to encourage international students to study here, Australian students, too, will be offered the chance to go to Asia as part of the government’s New Colombo Plan.
It’s been termed the “New” Colombo Plan because it takes its name from the original Colombo Plan of the 1950s. Unlike the new policy, the aim of the previous plan, launched in the chill of the Cold War, was not to “engage with Asia” but instead to keep Communist Asia far from Australia’s doorstep.
Ironically, that meant bringing some Asians – non-Communists - closer. Participating students would then return home, western-educated, and promote a sympathetic vision of Australian and western values in the newly decolonised nations of the region.
On this basis, the scheme was highly successful, particularly for the students themselves, many of whom went on to become leaders in their home countries.
There is no reason to think the New Colombo Plan will not be as successful as the original, though its intentions are different. But more could be borrowed than simply the name. Taking on board the hallmark of the original plan and focusing more deliberately on Asian students already coming to Australia might bring “engaging with Asia” a significant step closer.
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