Friday, September 3, 2010

Thoughts of home

Well it has been a hectic week. I am writing this sitting on a delayed airplane in Xian airport. We were told it had been delayed for an hour but there has just been an announcement that they do not know when it will take off. Oh well, no stress. We are in holiday mode.

A great day was had at the Forbidden City. There was more politics going on in pre-Revolutionary China than in modern day CQUniversity and that is saying something. One evening we went out to one of of Beijing's famous Peking Duck restaurants. We got a little carried away and ate ducks liver with scorpions. I have to say that for the past few days I have felt a little under the weather - I am not sure if this is due to the scorpions or not.

We travelled by China Eastern Airlines to Xian. Our main reason for the visit to this city was to see the Terracotta Warriors. These lived up to all the expectations. Our guide said that there were 8000 warriors that had been made by 720,000 slaves over 2000 years ago. I upset him a little when I pointed out that the slaves were not that productive - about ten thousand slaves to make each warrior!

Until visiting I had not realised that Xian was such an historic city in it's own right. It has an incredible city wall which encloses a fascinating Muslim area. There are enough replica terracotta warriors to form your own army.

Only a couple of days left and then back to work. I am on the road next week traveling to graduations around the country. I do enjoy the international graduations. I love meeting our graduates from overseas and their parents. Many of these graduates want to return to their own country and who can blame them when you look at the economic growth rates in China and India.

Just as many want to stay and make a life for themselves in Australia. What a fantastic resource they are for our country. At the moment we seem to make it very hard for people to come and join us in Australia. I truly believe that in the future with an ageing population countries will be competing to bring young talented people to their shores. If we get it wrong now we are going to find it very hard to compete in the future.

I hear people say that Australia cannot support many more people. Get real - there are cities in China that have more people than the population of Australia. What is driving economic growth in China and India is a large domestic population. I believe that we need to grow the population of Australia. What better way to do this than to bring in clever young people who are willing to pay for their own education, teach them in English and then keep then here to have a great life and to contribute towards Australia and help support it's ageing population?

International education has got a bit of bad name in recent years. To some extent criticism has been focused on the VET sector. I have heard a lot of scorn poured on back street colleges that have set up to train hair dressers and commercial cooks. This has culminated in these disciplines being taken off the migration list. But go to any tourist area or mining town in Australia and you will find a massive shortage of - you have guessed it cooks. I think that regional universities and TAFEs (or a dual sector university!) could play a very productive role in this area. Why not keep commercial cookery and the like on the migration list for students that had trained in regional universities or TAFEs and then require graduates from such programs to have to work in their discipline area for two or three years.

We have got to stop seeing international education and international students as some kind of threat. It is a sector that should be supported and international students should be encouraged to join us as Australians.

Some would argue that that it makes more sense to recruit people from overseas who have already qualified in their own country. But is this morally sustainable. By doing this we are taking talent away from some of the poorest countries in the world after their countries have invested scarce resources in them. With our migration points system we tend to take young people who have not had a chance to give any kind of return on the investment that has been made in them. This may be attractive to us - but does it make us good global citizens?

I guess I have some personal experience in all of this. I came to Australia for a better life about twelve years ago. I do sometimes feel uncomfortable that the UK invested in my education and I then left. I did leave after 15 years of service to the UK health and education sectors - that makes me feel better. I now feel more Australian than British in everything, with the possible exception of cricket!

So over the next week I look forward to meeting all our graduating international students and reflecting on how they will contribute to their own or our country.

We are now off to Shanghai where Anita is threatening to go into a shopping frenzy. I am looking forward to getting back home. I will be really interested to see if we have a government. Strange times!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Scott,
Good to hear your experience in Xian. Xian is my hometown. I did not know your were going to Xian otherwise I would provide some useful information to you.