Australian Education Minister visits ACICIS
On Wednesday 4 July 2012, the Australian Minister for Tertiary Education Senator Chris Evans visited Yogyakarta to attend the East Asia Education Ministers’ Summit Meeting. During this trip the Minister visited Gadjah Mada University and spoke to a group of ACICIS students.
It was a rare opportunity for students to have the Minister enter their classroom environment overseas. They shared their experiences, which ranged from managing teaching practicums in local schools, to village fieldwork, to navigating a new university system. A point which all participants came back to again and again was the rapid acceleration in their language competence since arriving in Indonesia and the benefit of longer periods of study in-country.
Value-adding to overseas study experiences with internship options was another issue raised, with the minister expressing a great interest in strategies that might help to attract non-language students to Indonesia and the Asian region in general. The minister also had to field questions on the lack of financial support for masters students and the lack of promotion within the university system for overseas study in Australia's most important neighbour.
Eight students from 6 universities met with the Minister, and below are some of their comments:
Janelle May (Murdoch University) - “It was wonderful to be able to speak with the Minister and have him acknowledge what we as ACICIS students do. He seemed genuinely interested in our experiences and I hope he was able to take something away from what we shared to benefit other students wanting to undertake studies in Indonesia.”
Michael Lewis (Charles Darwin University) - "It was a great opportunity to meet Minister Chris Evans. We talked a lot about our study as well as daily life in Indonesia. I felt that he was genuinely interested in our experiences, personal activities and difficulties faced during our in-country Indonesian studies because he regards engagement with Indonesia as an increasingly important issue for Australia. The minister agreed with many of our comments about Australian society's unfortunate lack of understanding of Indonesia and the lack of support for Indonesian studies."
Kel Fisher (Murdoch University) - "When Chris Evans entered the room, he immediately took off his jacket and his tie, rolled up his sleeves and sat in front of us casually. He got most of his entourage to stay outside so as to not intimidate us. He sat down and told us to be frank with him. So we each proceeded to give our own backgrounds and problems that we had faced, from issues with Centrelink, to not having our study over here recognised by home universities. He made a good effort to remember names or at the very least individual’s stories which he kept referring as the conversation progressed. He asked our opinions on what we thought would be beneficial to furthering the study of languages, not just Indonesian but of East Asia. So we each made our own suggestions, and he happily listened, asking us our opinions on how such things could be implemented. He agreed that better exposure of Australians to Asian cultures and values is something that needs to be urgently addressed.”
ACICIS Consortium Director, Prof. David Hill, said:
"ACICIS is delighted that the Minister took time out of his busy schedule to meet with our students and staff in Yogyakarta. It is important that government understands and appreciates the value of extended in-country study for the students and their communities. Senator Evans’ visit gave him an ideal opportunity to see the benefits of ACICIS first-hand."
Read about the Minister's visit to ACICIS in The Australian (10 July 2012)
Asian coverage of ASEAN Education Ministers’ Summit