Developing global citizens for a kinder world
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Developing global citizens for a kinder world

Developing global citizens for a kinder world

Registered Australian charity, The 40K Foundation, has improved the English language learning outcomes and acquisition of over 16,000 children across rural Asia. It is now on a mission to bring rural Asia to classrooms across Australia.

The Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged border closures may have seen Australians retreat from the world for a while, but it remains important for young Australians to develop a global outlook and a better understanding of their region, said 40K’s Head of Foundation, Lisa Colquhoun. “Global mindedness, and particularly what might be called ‘Asian mindedness’, not only prepares Australian students for the new global economy, but it also helps to combat the inward-looking instincts and self-versus- others mentality that has unfortunately come out of the pandemic,” said Colquhoun.

With the support of the Australian government and the Atlassian Foundation, the Sydney-based organisation has for the past 12 years empowered teenagers across rural Asia to engage with the world through English as the de facto global language. Recognising the growing need to (re) globalise the outlook of young people in its own backyard, the 40K Foundation saw an opportunity to connect Australian students with the students it supports in Asia which lead to the creation of The Kindskools’ Project.

The Kindskools’ Project links participating Australian schools with schools across rural Asia (currently focussing on Cambodia), providing a range of opportunities for the partnered schools to interact, share and learn from each other. The program is open to high schools anywhere across Australia. At the start of the program, participating schools are tasked with creating a presentation about their school, locality and culture to share with their partnered school. Following this, students work on small collaborative projects each quarter, de-signed to build knowledge of their partner school’s culture and way of life. The schedule of quarterly projects spans multiple learning areas and is developed in consultation with teachers to align with the learning outcomes for each grade. Joint school assemblies are conducted multiple times each year via videoconferencing. These assemblies provide opportunities for students to interact and show-case their culture through creative performances, as well as present and discuss the projects that students worked on during the quarter.

Throughout the year, teachers and students interact with their partner school peers through online discussion forums. Grade- based student forums provide opportunities for students to participate in threaded discussions about a range of topics, with the goal of growing and sharing knowledge about each other’s lives and issues that are important to them. Teacher- only forums, meanwhile, provide opportunities for teachers from each school to share ideas, expertise and resources.

Other activities include a cultural gift exchange and essay writing competition, through which students reflect on their experience of the program and what they learned from their partner school over the course of the year. To develop students’ philanthropic mindset and leadership, students are encouraged to actively fundraise for their participation in the program each year. The money raised helps to support the English language education of students in the partner school and other schools across rural Asia. Medallions are awarded annually to the highest fundraiser and most creative fundraiser in each school. “The purpose of getting students actively involved in fundraising is to emphasise their responsibility as global citizens to make the world a better place, rather than constantly taking from it.

It also gives students a sense of purpose and satisfaction knowing they are making a positive difference in the lives of their new international friends,” says Colquhoun. Research suggests that intercultural school partnerships have a profoundly positive impact not only on students, but also on teachers and the school community at large. By brokering and sustaining effective, mutually-beneficial school partner-ships, The Kindskools’ Project ensures that participating schools get the most out of the experience.

For students, benefits include:
• development of intercultural understanding, global citizenship and an appreciation of different perspectives
• development of 21st century skills to enable critical thinking, cross-cultural communication and collaboration, empathy and philanthropy, and a positive attitude to diversity
• development of international friendships and networks

For teachers, benefits include:
• opportunities to benchmark practice against other school systems
• increased awareness of different education systems and of the challenges facing educators in low-resource settings
• development of leadership and cross-cultural communications skills.

For the wider school community, benefits include:
• development of global networks and perspectives, internationalising the out-look of the entire school community
• enhanced school image and reputation.

Participation is perhaps most transformative, however, for the students in low re-source, rural Asian contexts who would otherwise remain on the periphery of globalisation. For these students, the pace of global change, accelerated even more so by the Covid-19 pandemic, has increased the vulnerability of their families already precarious livelihoods and their own inherently precarious futures. “Their lives will be completely transformed by this program. For many, it will be the first time they have been able to practise English with a native speaker, the first time they’ve encountered a foreigner and a foreign culture. What that can do for a young person whose world had previously been limited to within the boundaries of their rural or remote village cannot be underestimated,” says Colquhoun. The 40K Foundation is currently accepting expressions of interest from Australian high schools for a Term 3 commencement.

For further information contact Lisa Colquhoun, Head of Foundation at lisa@40k.com.au or visit the website www.40kfoundation.org/kindskools

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