Last week in Beijing Premier Daniel Andrews cemented Victoria's reputation as the Education State, reaching an historic agreement with China’s Ministry of Education to take the education relationship between our two jurisdictions to a whole new level.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed on 20 September 2016 will establish a biennial China-Victoria Education Leadership Dialogue to discuss a range of education issues from early childhood to higher education and research.
While in China the Victorian Premier also announced new measures to support international students while they study in Victoria and enhance the quality of their experience, including:
- More welcome and orientation support for international students
- A new mobile ‘Welcome App’ to provide students with detailed information about Victoria and its education institutions
- An International School Student Experience Victoria Program to familiarise new school students with Victoria’s culture and environment
- Increased resources to help Chinese students in Victoria engage with the community to gain skills and build local connections while they are here.
In addition the government hopes to promote two-way exchange by encouraging Victorian students, young professionals and public servants to study in China, and increasing opportunities for Victorians to learn about China and the Chinese language.
To this end, applications open in early 2017 for the Government’s Hamer Scholarships program, which provides up to six months of language study in Asia for young Victorians.
Victoria and China have a long-standing relationship, and education has played, and will continue to play, a crucial role. The three pillars of our education partnership: government-to-government, institution-to-institution, and people-to-people, are just as important as our trade and investment links in forging our bilateral ties with China.
It is the last of these, our people-to-people links, which I would argue are the most important of all. Each year thousands of Chinese tourists, business-people, students and their parents travel to and spend time in Victoria, particularly Melbourne, which was this year voted the most liveable city in the world for the sixth year in a row. And an increasing number of Victorians are beginning to reciprocate, including our many school students who participate in the Victorian Young Leaders to China 6-week immersion Program, or spend time with counterparts from the hundreds of Chinese sister schools with whom Victorian schools have built partnerships over the years.
The mutual understanding and goodwill created through these face-to-face encounters will be of benefit to both Victoria and China, as our people share ideas, develop new perspectives, and together solve the challenges of the 21st Century that are becoming increasingly global.
It is this aspect of my job, the bringing together of students, teachers, principals, and government officials from Victoria and across the world, that I find most satisfying. With each hand of friendship that we extend, our lives become a little richer, the world becomes a little smaller, and our respect for one another becomes a little deeper.
Having begun my career as a corporate lawyer, where time was money, I used to think that deviating from the concrete clauses of a contract was a risky venture. But having since spent the majority of my career in Asia, I quickly came to learn that there is rarely such thing as a single, isolated transaction. With the rise of the internet and social media, the value of relationships are arguably greater than ever before. And in this the Chinese have always been ahead of the game.
In China, getting to know someone face-to-face is often regarded as the only way of finding out whether a person is trustworthy.
In general, the Chinese set great store on building personal relationships before entering into a business partnership, often saying, “Let’s first become friends, then do business”.
Our Premier's visit to China was a very important milestone in Victoria's economic relationship with Asia's powerhouse. But equally important are the many, many friendships that have been built on the back of simple interactions between our people, particularly the thousands of students who have spent time on each other's shores.
The education relationship between Victoria and China, which took a big step forward this week, will play a crucial role in this. But so too will the thousand hands of friendship that we will continue to extend to each other. And in this, we all have a role to play.
Joel Backwell, Director International Education Division, DET