AFG Venture Group Dispatches

Corporate advisory and consultancy in Australia, South East Asia and India.

July 2010: Education, Digital Media and IT


Welcome to AFG Venture Dispatches, your insight into current issues and items of interest for Emerging, Technology and Growth Companies across Australia and Asia. Technological advances are impacting on how education is delivered. Educators are adapting to meet the needs of students arriving with digital capabilities and multi-dimensional learning experiences. Universities can also more easily share capacity and expertise across countries to further their reach and impact. Articles, comments or letters are most welcome and can be sent to The next edition will be in September 2010 and will focus on Primary Industries, with a particular focus on Agriculture and Agribusiness. Contributions welcome.

Education, Digital Media and IT – this month’s theme

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education” – Martin Luther King. Jr (1929 – 1968)

The Asian region has a huge population, with an enormous demand for education. Each country is looking to develop its innovative capacity for greater competitiveness in the global economy. IT and digital media technologies are re-shaping the learning process and making it possible for educational institutions to partner across the globe, sharing methods and capacity to meet the various needs and demands.

The rapid rise in digital usage by the generation of students who have grown up with the internet is placing pressure on administrators and teachers to continually adapt their methods. Challenges exist in how educators and institutions can best utilise the technological platforms and social tools available. The speed of developments is making it hard to plan where to focus resources and how best to re-shape the teacher/student relationship.

Digital technology is making it easier to locate and create material, making uptake only dependent on having access to a computer and the internet. Digital literacy though requires more than the simplified technical entry skills. With access to so much material, the ability for reflection: analysis, judgement, and discernment will need to be part of any learning approach.

Many countries are collaborating on their use of educational as well as cultural resources in order to enrich the learning experience, maximise capabilities and present a positive country brand or image. These cross-cultural partnerships play an important part in positively promoting nations and it is a key aspect of “soft diplomacy”, involving areas like creative arts, sports, media and aid and infrastructure assistance. Each country increases its capacity, knowledge and linkages, which in turn generates a more sophisticated and interconnected trans-global economy and builds people to people networks.

Our contributors discuss some of the challenges and opportunities presenting themselves to educators around the world. Education plays an important part in developing national and regional capabilities for economic and societal growth. Digital technology and IT provides opportunities for educator’s to better reach and educate the upcoming generations living across Asia.

“We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people.” – Pierre Omidyar (1967 – )

Digital Literacy: Learning to Run Twice as Fast – Tony Hughes, Senior Consultant, Digital Media, Education & Training, AFG Venture Group

Tony Hughes examines the implications of the rapid societal change brought about by new technologies and digital media, through the internet. “Digital natives”, a term coined for those who have grown up with the internet, have developed a natural relationship with what is available and this multi-dimensional learning experience is altering how they approach their educational process.

Educators and trainers, often with traditional and strictly linear approaches to learning are working furiously to keep up. In this haste we may be missing how to be purposeful about how we use the technology. Ensuring it is appropriate for the particular outcomes we want to achieve is an essential feature that must be built into the learning platform.

Digital literacy has to be at the heart of any new approach to education andTony unravels any confusion about that term. The fundamental skill of analysis, making educated judgements about what we find online, is part of digital competence. Other aspects are presented that highlight what also needs to be integrated into the teacher, student relationship to utilise best, both the technology and our creativity.

Universities Web Squared: How are Universities Rethinking Approaches to International Education, Research and Global Engagement – Professor Stephanie Fahey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement) at Monash University and Dr Eugene Sebastian, Director Strategy and Development within the Office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement), Monash University

Professor Stephanie Fahey and Dr Eugene Sebastian highlight the impact that technological advances are having on the education sector. Already universities in the U.S are providing students with an iPad, and are incorporating it into their curriculum. Tablet computing is going to transform how education is delivered.

Monash University has begun integrating technology into how their campus operates and through applied research are constantly refining their methods, in order to best meet the needs and increasingly the demands of their students and staff. Young people are becoming used to and more adept at utilising the available technology to communicate and to gather and share information.

An immediate impact is that today”s students are spending less time on campus. 61 per cent of full-time students are now working, up from 55 per cent in 2004. They are driving changes to provide more flexible education and communication delivery platforms. Laptops and PCs are being used in class to interact with lecturers, providing instant feedback and the sharing of resources in real time. This is demanding changes in how lecturers transmit knowledge and how physical learning spaces are designed. Social networks and Google Apps are now tools that universities use to communicate with students, the media and the public.

Keeping pace with technological advances and convergence is a challenge for universities. Whole new frontiers are opening up as students and researchers drive changes on campus. The modern university has to embrace technology to better deliver, promote and project their academic strengths and to reach their target market.

Building Effective Australian Soft Diplomacy in the Asia Pacific Through Education, Language, Arts & Culture – stocktaking our current soft diplomacy resources – Michael Fay, Director & Head of Education & Training Services, AFG Venture Group

Soft diplomacy was a term coined by Professor Joseph Nye, former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, to define a country”s ability to get international support by attracting rather than coercing people. Michael Fay takes stock of what “soft diplomacy” resources Australia is developing and utilising to increase our global engagement, particularly in Asia.

As an example of soft power and education, the U.S. is increasingly targeting international students as a key part of its soft diplomacy agenda, partly in response to the success of countries like Australia where International Education, despite its current problems, is a top 5 export earner. European nations are also focused on building an export education strategy. Over decades they have developed significant soft power mechanisms to present themselves attractively to others. Organisations like the British Council, Alliance Francaise, the Geothe Institute and the Cervantes Centre are well known internationally and combine education, language, arts, culture and tourism. China is also enthusiastically embracing the soft power agenda via the Confucius Institutes. Education, commerce, art, sport and effective disaster and development assistance are areas where nations can display themselves positively, building on what previously may have been a narrow perspective, born of little knowledge or experience of soft power and an over reliance on hard or military power.

Australia has a number of government and non-government agencies who have been developing their own international engagement strategies. Michael provides a perspective on these efforts, which have often been uncoordinated and have had limited effectiveness. The new Australian Tourism Brand released in mid 2010 is an attempt to project a more contemporary and diverse image of Australia. While we often rank well in the Country Brands index (a measure of a nation”s international image), more can be done in collaboration across sectors and agencies that would help build added value.

Building Demand for Asia Literacy – Lucy Carroll, Manager, Asia Literary Ambassadors Project, Asia Education Foundation

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said that he “wants Australia to become the most Asia-literate country in the Western world”. Lucy Carroll shares what Australia – governments and business, and the Asia Education Foundation are doing about it.

Asia literacy is defined as knowledge, skills and understandings about the histories, geographies, societies, cultures, literature and languages of the diverse countries that make up our region. The imperative for Australians to become Asia-literate has never been greater. Immigrants from Asia are playing an active role in our communities and the regions economies are having a greater influence.

Making sense of this part of the world we live in is a core part of a 21st century Australian curriculum.

Governments – federal and state, businesses and school communities are collaborating to stimulate and increase student and school community demand for Asia literacy. Professionals from the business sector, through the Asia Literacy Ambassador Project, are linking with schools to best suit the specific interests of the school community and the expertise and availability of the Ambassador. Multiple benefits are accruing to all participants as Australia continues to highlight the diverse career and life opportunities that are available to those who are Asia literate.

Nepal: Education in Times of Crisis – Murray Laurence, Travel Writer, Business Consultant, International Education

Murray Laurence is currently based and teaching in Nepal and has viewed the impacts of the recent protests and “indefinite” strikes, begun by the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). These strikes are aimed at toppling the existing Nepalese coalition government and they have successfully stopped much activity, including education, with the closing of schools and colleges.

Nepal is a country where over half of its population of 29 million is under 20, and with education being valued by families, the demand is huge. Private schools have developed rapidly in recent years. Education over the last forty years could be said to be one of Nepal”s development success stories, with increasing literacy bringing tremendous change and opportunity. Immense problems still remain in providing adequate education to all Nepalese children. A challenging geography, minimal facilities, family demands and inadequately trained teachers are some of the difficulties being faced.

Nepal also finds its schools and teachers becoming targets during periods of political and civil unrest. As political opponents compromise their credibility with the public, with this and other actions that just weaken the nation, those with the capacity try to leave. With perseverance and adaptability being a great national characteristic, they prosper overseas including in Australia where Nepal has been a top 10 source country for international fee paying students and skilled migration applications.

Building Cultural Relationships in Indonesia through Theatre and Education – Julie Janson, Artist, Playwright & Educator

Julie Janson has personally participated in the building of cultural relationships between Australia and Indonesia. Collaborating on various people to people projects with Indonesian communities and artists: disaster assistance during the 2004 tsunami, education in the local communities in its aftermath, and in the subsequent years, teaching at universities and work-shopping a number of theatre projects.

Sharing stories of how these theatre projects evolved and the various partnerships forged, on an individual and organisational level shows how understanding and cultural appreciation can be built through the arts. Spending time together allows for greater awareness of our commonalities, linkages and what can be learned from diverse perspectives, enhancing the view of each country and its citizens to the other. These projects bring increased confidence for further collaboration, making the path easier for all those who come in the future to work together in art and/or commerce.

Working with Islamic Education Groups in Indonesia – Michael Fay, Director & Head of Education & Training Services, AFG Venture Group

Michael Fay recounts how Australian Universities are now active transnational education course providers in South East Asia. Opportunities have been provided to Indonesian students for nearly 25 years and this has been an important part of our soft diplomacy engagement with our closest neighbour.

In the past a large number of these students have been from Christian and Buddhist communities in Indonesia, but recently there has been a greater connection with the majority Muslim population. The TAFE sector with its ability to provide capacity building skills training is little utilised in comparison to the university sector. Growth in the vocational training area tends to be driven by the private sector.

The school level is where exciting developments and linkages are occurring between Australia and Indonesia. Michael advocates increased engagement with the Islamic boarding schools through ‘The International Award for Young People’ and the ‘Bridge Schools Project’. Both provide a platform for student exchange and for the teaching and learning of Indonesian, plus increased opportunities for the exchange of English and Indonesian teachers. These activities are already having positive outcomes for all involved and for Australia”s long-term relationship with Indonesia.

The Airport Economist: Good Exporting Vietnam – Tim Harcourt, Chief Economist, Australian Trade Commission (Austrade)

Tim Harcourt hit the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and tried the taxi test. Amongst all the international household names there is one that all taxi drivers knew: R.M.I.T. – The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University that set up in 2001 with the assistance of the Vietnamese Government and with financial support from multi-lateral funding agencies.

The Vietnamese people value education highly and the government its importance for economic growth. They want to avoid capacity constraints on the supply side so they are meeting new demands through collaborations with institutions like R.M.I.T. Vietnamese are willing to finance the education of their children (around 10 per cent of their income) and these needs are requiring increased sophistication in their financial system. Australian banks are seeking to develop links in Vietnam to assist in this development.

The R.M.I.T partnership and the involvement of Australian banks, is symbolic of Australian economic engagement with Vietnam as well as other South East Asian countries as they expand their education and infrastructure capabilities.

“The new prime time is during the day in the office.” – Michael Kelly, President, AOL Media Services

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde

“The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.” – Aldous Huxley

If you have any comments or would like to submit an article, please email the – your comments and feedback are always welcome. We seek articles for the next issue that will focus on Primary Industryies, with a particular focus on Agriculture and Agribusiness. The due date for contributions will be mid July 2010.

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A Final Word

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth” – Diogenes Laertius (3rd Century A.D.)

Copyright 2010, AFG Venture Group. All rights reserved. All material contained in this newsletter is the Intellectual Property of AFG Venture Group and cannot be reproduced, copied, published, quoted or disseminated without the prior permission of AFG Venture Group.