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52 Memorandum from Tange to Australian Representatives in South East Asia

Canberra, 20 April 1950

Technical Assistance to South and South-East Asia

In preparation for the forthcoming meeting of the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee, we have been giving some thought to the type of educational assistance we may be able to afford the countries of South and South-East Asia to meet some of their immediate needs.

2. So far educational fellowships granted by Australia to nationals from countries in South and South-East Asia have been at University level or equivalent for higher administrative and professional personnel. It is probable that the various countries have, in addition, a large unsatisfied need for assistance in technical training at the artisan level so that they may rapidly develop a greater labour force of skilled workers. This view is confirmed by studies made by I.L.O.

3. There are certain obvious difficulties involved in bringing any significant number of students to Australia to be trained in our own technical colleges. We have therefore been exploring possible means by which Australia may be able to make some contribution to technical training within the countries themselves.

4. Australian methods of technical instruction are well advanced. The Industrial Training Division of the Department of Labour and National Service has developed simplified methods for accelerated training of tradesmen and artisans. These have been most successfully applied in meeting the large demand for tradesmen in the Defence forces and industry during the war and also for training ex-servicemen under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Methods used have included the use of specially compiled simplified and illustrated manuals, posters, film strips and motion picture training films. In addition, certain techniques have been used for 'learning by doing'.

5. It occurs to us that, by the application of the above techniques, Australia may be able to make some contribution to the urgent needs of the countries of the area for a larger skilled labour force. Possible assistance by Australia might take the form of any one or a combination of the following:—

(a) The provision of simplified technical manuals, posters, film strips, motion picture training films, etc ...

(b) The provision of tools and equipment for training purposes.

(c) The provision of teams of instructors with demonstration equipment who could either carry out mass instruction or establish and operate training centres for the purpose of training a sufficient number of local instructors.

6. We are somewhat handicapped at the present time by lack of adequate information as to what are the actual immediate needs of the countries for various types of tradesmen, and the type of educational assistance which would be of most immediate benefit.

7. We are not yet in a position to indicate the extent to which Australia could make any form of technical training assistance available. Therefore, any enquiries you make should be without commitment of any kind. You could imply that the enquiries are being made in view of the possibility of our modifying the existing Australian fellowship scheme under which the Government already benefits. We would like you to obtain the informal reaction of the appropriate government agency as to which of the forms of assistance mentioned in paragraph 5 would be useful, and in respect of which trades, with an indication as to the extent that standards and methods differ from Australia's. We would like to know whether language difficulties in tuition by Australian instructors could be overcome.

8. It would be necessary that any form of training which we initiated within the countries themselves could be grafted on to their own educational system so that the work could continue after our outside assistance ended. You should therefore keep that point in mind in your enquiries. Moreover, we would be unlikely to proceed further with the project unless satisfied that the aid would satisfy a genuine need, would make a worthwhile contribution to an important sector of the economy, and would have the full co-operation of the Government.

9. We would appreciate receiving a reply, even if only tentative, by May 5th.

10. (To Bangkok only) A letter along similar lines to this has been sent to all our posts in South and South-East Asia. We would suggest that for your part, in addition to making enquiries locally in relation to the needs of Thailand, you may also be able to obtain from Lokanathan1 a considerable amount of relevant information concerning the region as a whole.

[NAA: A1838, 708/9/2 part 2]

1 Dr P S. Lokanathan, Executive Secretary," ECAFE.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History