Chapter 3

Education, Exchanges and Dialogue

Photo of Australian teacher and PhD candidate Rebecca Cairns with students

Australian teacher and PhD candidate Rebecca Cairns with students at SMK Tinggi Perempuan secondary school, Melaka, during the Malaysia Unplugged 2012 study tour.

Since the 1950s, an Australia–Malaysia education network has evolved far beyond that which any statistical data might convey. It is true that in 1957, the year of Malayan independence, around 1500 Malayan students were studying in Australian universities and colleges and that, almost 60 years later in 2014, there were over 22 000 international student enrolments from Malaysia in Australian higher education institutions.1 This is a remarkable rate of growth, but it tells us little about the deeper ties that have developed behind those numbers. People-to-people links in their thousands span the decades, continue to flourish and be further extended into wider networks. The Australia–Malaysia alumni network now intersects across the academic, political, business, sporting, cultural and social sectors.

TThis phenomenon is complemented by a rich seam of intellectual capital that has developed through research partnerships, technical capacity building and staff exchange programs, creating a web of scholars and friendships that intersect Australian and Malaysian universities. At the other end of the academic spectrum, primary and secondary schools in Australia champion cross-cultural education through Australia–Malaysia student and teacher exchange programs and the delivery of curriculum resources in both directions. Our education relationship is now as diverse as it is important to both countries, demonstrated by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Education in 2011 and an MOU on Higher Education in 2012 'to encourage and promote further links'.2

Photo of Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Abdul Rahman Arshad and Michael Osborne

Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Abdul Rahman Arshad and La Trobe University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Michael Osborne after signing the Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities in Kuala Lumpur, 1994.

Photo of Malayan Colombo Plan students

Above: Malayan Colombo Plan students, 1956.

Below: University of Adelaide and Colombo Plan students plan their tour of Singapore, Malaya, Thailand and Sarawak on the Colombo Plan Students Association of South Australia sponsored goodwill tour, 1962.