The youth leaders of Australia and Asia wish to reassemble again for in-person programs and resume travel and immersion experiences but they certainly do not want the youth engagement to return to pre-pandemic ways.
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Though the leaders still recognise the need for overseas travel to gain in-person experiences and language skills and become culturally responsive, they admit the need for regional engagements that are independent of travel.
The Generation Asia Report 1: Keeping Connected report, jointly published by the Asia Society Australia and IEAA emphasises other ways to inspire youth to gain experience, grow connections and explore entrepreneurial opportunities. They predict that the future will see hybridised engagements based on human capital.
The facilitators of Australia Asia youth connectivity include international education, tourism, employment and civic engagement. The international student engagement with Australian education programs declined in the past two years due to a decline in employment and tourism.
The number of youth between 18 and 35 years visiting Australia from the Asia Pacific dipped in 2020 and remained at a low level in 2021. Instead, remote study through online platforms and offshore study hubs emerged. Education and bilateral youth associations allowed Australia to have a connection with the Asia Pacific.
Jon Chew, head of strategic insights and analytics at Navitas, feels that in spite of several creative online engagements, face-to-face interactions cannot be substituted at any cost. He is rooting for the return of international students as the Australian borders are now open.
The Australian government statistics show that the number of international students from the Asia Pacific plummeted to 584,820 in 2021 from 711,105 in 2020 though there has been steady granting of visas to students from a few specific Asian countries.
The report further stated that the students enrolled in educational institutions in Australia but located offshore were encouraged to apply for a student visa to return to Australia after the border was reopened. The effects of Covid-19 were reduced by the Australian institutions by developing hybrid and flexible forms of program delivery when travel was restricted. This flexibility of new learning models has come to aid the mature students who are now able to juggle their jobs with their studies. The report noted that the demand for virtual mobility has been raised by many.
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Chew also voiced the need for greater government, institutional and philanthropic investment to increase engagement with Asia. The youth of both the continents must be listened to and the need to connect must be understood. The study will foster better understanding among nations.
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Source: The PIE News