Vancouver had been set to host the first APAIE conference in the Americas, with an appropriate theme of Bridging the Oceans. The city remains the perfect choice to host such conversations, and the strands of what we were to explore in 2020 maintain their relevance: the Pacific Century, shifting tides of geopolitics, newly empowered voices and communities, accelerated and changing patterns of human movement and migration, disrupted employment models, environmental change, evolving dynamics and models of faculty and student mobility, new cultures of learning and teaching, and radically new and diverse generations of learners.
Still, much has changed in and around these oceans. Some conversations planned for Vancouver may have diminished or grown in urgency, while other and new conversations now demand our attention. Seismic shifts have altered our landscapes and horizons. Only ponder on our recent experiences of catastrophic climate change, of pandemic and recovery, a new spotlight on resilience, surging mental health and addiction issues, of populism with privilege and systemic racism laid bare, the currency of alternative truth and misinformation, the intrusion, enabling and weaponization of technology, the radical fracturing of how we interact, work and study, and paradigmatic shifts in how nations and societies define progress.
All these issues highlight the importance of our values in International Education, but also the inherent gaps, inequities, and short-termism in many of the systems we design, operate and inhabit as international educators. There have been coincidental calls to change, decolonize, defund, replace, to silence, cancel and disrupt, as well as repetitive calls to pivot, transition, rebuild and re-imagine. History has shown that choices made or ignored during crises do have consequence and have the ability to shape the world for decades to come.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion have leapt to the fore of our agenda. Climate must be addressed. Through the disruptive migration of content and conversation online, geography has become almost irrelevant in our most geography-obsessed of sectors. International Education has put on hiatus much of its proposition and it may need a new and sustainable model. It has been a difficult time and a disruptive one, but spring follows winter. Things that were hidden are revealed. We are able see the world and our sector from a new vantage.
“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
What a great opportunity to take a step back and to view things from the other side of the Pacific. Vancouver will offer one of the first opportunities for the global International Education sector to meet again and to explore the Brave New Realities for Higher Education in the Asia Pacific. Let us do this well, once more, with feeling. Allegro Con Brio
Throughout history, societies have educated youth to prepare them for success, to reach their full potential as productive members of the economy and to become responsible, principled citizens. In ways as yet unknown, the pandemic has restructured education and our economies, and these changes are compounded by rapid technological, economic and societal change. Given these dynamics, educators must prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist, in knowledge and service economies that use technologies not yet envisaged. Education must focus on learning how to learn, on lifelong learning and soft skills such as communication, creative thinking and flexibility, global competencies and the ability to discern, aggregate and synthesize information in ways we cannot yet imagine.
Asia, the Pacific and the Americas represent diverse geographies, nations and nation states, cultures, languages, religions, histories and traditions, governments, allegiances and blocs, levels of development, and education systems.
Recent events have underscored the importance of addressing racism, inequity and diversity in society and in our education systems, and the inherent need for international education to ensure the recognition, inclusion and reflection of equity-deserving groups.
Interculturalism encourages organizational and individual behavioural change towards creating a common space for dialogue. It supports the exploration of how higher education can better engage the diverse Indigenous communities which abound throughout the Americas, Asia and the Pacific as well as the need to engage newcomer communities, immigrants and migrants, minority populations, temporary foreign workers, and international students and their families. The intercultural values espoused as fundamental to International Education can both accommodate and encourage a more comprehensive and nuanced engagement with and between these disparate communities.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a pathway to global prosperity and to peace on a sustainable planet. They provide a global framework to drive and measure the impact of teaching, research and engagement.
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