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Chinese Microblog                                       Summer 2019                               Embassy Website 
Policy update
China announces major reform to vocational education sector – update

On 13 February 2019, the Chinese State Council published its “Implementation plan on National Vocational Education Reform” (in Chinese), signalling a significantly strengthened focus on vocational education. The plan prioritises reform of vocational education in China to better equip the labour force to meet the demands of the economy now and into the future.  We have updated the policy piece with recent developments, check it out.
Index
Message from the Minister Counsellor

Here we are, August already!  As I reflect upon the last few months, I am pleased to report that we have had an action-packed and informative season here at the Beijing Post. 

We were very fortunate to be able to meet with government counterparts and education stakeholders in a number of provinces and visit a few sites of China-Australia education cooperation.  These meetings and visits have provided significant insight into the China-Australia education relationship and ideas for future collaboration. All this travel has our office well accustomed to a Chinese practice of eating dumplings (jiao zi, which is similar to ‘jiao’ for foot) before departure and noodles (mian, which are long) on arrival in support of a welcome and long stay! 

In the last quarter, we have also had the opportunity to attend anniversary celebrations for a joint institute and program.  It is always special to be part of marking key milestones and meet those involved in the joint venture, including students and alumni.

In May, we were honoured to hold the first of what we hope becomes of series of China-Australia VET Policy Briefings here at the Embassy in Beijing, which was opened by Australia’s Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Jan Adams AO, and attended by a number of key Chinese and Australian VET partners.  We sincerely appreciated the contribution of Deputy Director LI from the Ministry of Education who presented on China’s comprehensive VET reform plans, and Ms Jen Bahen, Director TAFE Directors Australia, who travelled from Australia for this event and presented on Australia’s VET priorities.  The presentations were followed by two workshops looking at the challenges and opportunities for enhanced Chinese-Australian collaboration on VET…. more on this event below.

As always, we are keen to hear from stakeholders involved in the China-Australia education relationship, to engage with mobility groups and follow key developments in education in both countries.

To those who are having a Summer break, I wish you health and happiness for the sunshine season. 

Brooke

VET policy briefing sees great potential in Australia-China VET collaboration

On 24 May, the Education and Research Section hosted a China-Australia Vocational Education and Training (VET) Policy Briefing session at the Embassy. The briefing was attended by Chinese and Australian vocational education experts and policy makers.

Her Excellency Jan Adams AO opened the session and welcomed guests to the Embassy. Ms Li Huiping, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education’s Department of Vocation & Adult Education presented on China’s recently announced Implementation Plan on National Vocational Education Reform. Ms Jen Bahen, Director of International Engagement, TAFE Directors Australia shared insights on recent developments in Australian VET.

 
Photo: Ambassador Adams welcoming guests of the VET briefing session to the Embassy
Photo: Discussion panels on opportunities and challenges in Australia-China VET collaboration

Another highlight of the event was the workshop sessions which looked at the opportunities and challenges in Australia-China VET collaboration into the future.  Most participants see great collaboration opportunity, especially on the development of standards and qualifications frameworks, curriculum reform and teacher training. The participants encouraged greater information sharing between Chinese and Australian education providers to inspire further collaboration. They also suggested China’s “Shuanggao” (the Double High project for VET) may be an area for China-Australia collaboration, once specific standards and indicators for this project are announced.
Photo: All participants of the Australian Embassy VET policy briefing
 
The briefing ended on a high note with participants indicating support for similar events to take place in the future, possibly in other cities across China. The Education and Research Section would like to thank everyone for their active participation in the session.
Provincial visits

The first half of 2019 saw the Education and Research Section conduct quite a few provincial visits and meet with local education authorities and key partners.  

In mid-March, Brooke took a trip to Hong Kong for her first official call to the special administrative region. There she met with local education authorities including the Hong Kong Education Bureau, Vocational Training Council, Qualifications Framework Secretariat, Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic & Vocational Qualifications, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and the University Grants Committee. She was also welcomed by Hong Kong-based institutions that have developed extensive connections with Australia, including Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, City University Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University.

Photo: Brooke with Australian Alumni and education friends in Hong Kong
 
In April, the Education and Research Section and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Beijing team did a joint visit to Wuhan in Hubei province. The teams were greeted by government bodies and national academies including the Hubei Provincial Department of Education, Hubei Provincial Department of Science and Technology and Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Academy of Science.  Hubei’s higher education is among the best in China and the province is ranked 4th in China for the number of disciplines included in the Double First Class initiative. The teams visited key partners in Sino-Australian Cooperation in Running Schools, including Wuhan University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan Technical College of Communications and Wuhan Tourism School. 

In late May, Brooke, Jarrod and our Education Manager Xiaofeng Lei travelled to Shanghai to attend the 25 year anniversary of SHU-UTS SILC Business School, then paying a visit to neighbouring Suzhou, in Jiangsu province. While in Shanghai, they met with leaders of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and discussed the future prospects of the Australia-Shanghai education relationship. They also visited Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the International Education Association of Shanghai and Shanghai Information Technology College for introductory calls.

In Suzhou, the Education and Research Section met with the Suzhou Education Bureau and visited the Southeast University-Monash University Joint Graduate School. The graduate school was established in 2012 and is one of the eight Chinese-Australian joint institutions at bachelor and above degree level. They also visited the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management’s campus in Suzhou and interacted with students there.
Australian-China education joint ventures celebrate milestone achievements

Australia was one of the first countries to deliver Chinese-foreign cooperatively run education programs in China in the early 1990s. As of today, the Chinese Government has approved more than 350 joint programs and 16 joint institutes between Australia and China.

Earlier this year, the Education and Research Section participated in two milestone celebrations of Australia-China educational cooperation.

The Tsinghua University-Australian National University (ANU) Masters of Management joint education program celebrated its 15th anniversary in April 2019 and held an event and management forum in Beijing. The event was attended by Tsinghua University Vice-Provost Peng Gang and ANU Provost Mike Calford. Brooke gave an opening address at the forum and congratulated Tsinghua University and ANU on their accomplishment.

Photo: Tsinghua University-The Australian National University Management Forum
 
We were also invited to celebrate another joint education milestone in Shanghai in May. The Shanghai University - University of Technology Sydney SILC Business School established in 1994 was the first Sino-Australia joint institute approved by the Chinese Government, and has been offering a joint undergraduate program in business and management for over 25 years. What a great example of the long standing and solid China-Australia education relationship!
Photo: Celebration event of the 25th anniversary of SILC and Seminar on Sino-Australian Cooperative Education
New Australian Consulate opens in Shenyang, facilitates closer engagement with education counterparts in the North-east 

In the second quarter of 2019, Australia’s sixth official post in China was established in Northeast China’s Shenyang city. 

Photo: Ms Frances Adamson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with Shenyang Consul-General Broughton Robertson
 
On 24 April, the Shenyang Consulate-General held a reception in honour of the opening and welcomed Australia’s partners in the Northeastern region, including education partners and friends.  Northeast China has some of the best research and educational institutions in China. Thousands of students from Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces study in Australia every year and increasing numbers of Australian students study in the region. There are also four Australian Studies Centres in China’s Northeastern region.

We are hopeful that with the support of the Shenyang Consulate General, the educational collaboration between Australia and Northeast China will be further enhanced. 
Photo: Reception in honour of opening the Australian Consulate-General in Shenyang
Pre-departure briefing for Communication University of China foundation program students

On 30 April, Jarrod attended an Australian pre-departure briefing session for students from the Communication University of China. The event was hosted by the Centre of International Education (CIE) from the University’s School of Professional Studies and Executive Education, and attended by around 150 students who will soon study in Australia as part of the university’s foundation program. Jarrod presented on the Australian education system and the service and support available to international students in Australia.

We value the opportunity to speak with students before they leave home to study in Australia. On this occasion, it was the first time for these young adults to study abroad. We recognise the importance to prepare them for their journey and to say “welcome”.  

Photo: Jarrod giving pre-departure briefing speech to Australian foundations program students at Communication University of China
TEQSA Conference 2019 Open for registration 

The Fourth Annual TEQSA Conference will be held from 27 to 29 November 2019 at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne.

The theme for this year is Partnerships Driving Quality and the conference will focus on the ways in which providers can collaborate with industry, professional accreditation bodies and regulatory authorities to benefit students, the higher education sector and Australian education.

Keynote speakers will explore aspects of the global higher education landscape and will demonstrate how partnerships can transform the content and delivery of education over the next decade. The conference program will offer the opportunity to attend thought-provoking plenaries, interactive sessions and networking events – ideal for generating new ideas and contacts.

For registration details please visit: https://www.teqsaconference.org.au/
Australian Government announces new scholarships program - Destination Australia 
 

The Australian Government has announced the establishment of the Destination Australia scholarship program. The new program will support both Australian and international students to study tertiary education in regional Australia. Over 1000 scholarships of $15,000 will be offered per year to support the study and living expenses associated with studying a Certificate IV to Doctorate level qualifications at a regional campus of an eligible tertiary education provider. For more information, visit the Australian Government’s International Education website

Alumni Story – Theo Stapleton

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself
I studied in China for two years from 2015-2017, the first year at Tsinghua and the second year at Peking University. While in China I studied Chinese from beginner one at Tsinghua, right up to advanced courses at PKU, including translation and history. 
I took an undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Western Australia, and I have just completed my honours degree at UWA in Asian Studies, where I investigated the religious entrepreneurship of the Humanistic Buddhist movement. In October, I will be starting a Masters in Contemporary China Studies at Oxford.

2. How did you get here – What led you to consider study in China or the language?
Coming to China was a very perchance happening for me. I hadn’t considered going abroad to study, but after applying for the New Colombo Plan scholarship, I was given the opportunity to come to China. I ended up spending two years in Beijing, and decided that studying Chinese would be a good way to immerse myself in this country and its culture. After my first semester, it is fair to say that I became pretty obsessed with the language learning experience. After three semesters of study I took the HSK 6 exam, and somehow managed to pass. My reading and writing skills certainly lagged behind my spoken Chinese, which I practiced at every opportunity available (including striking up conversations with many unsuspecting old Beijinger’s on public transport and in the hutongs!). Being able to understand more of what was going on around me, and being able to have conversations which went beyond the weather encouraged me to keep studying. After two years I realised that learning Chinese was going to be a life-long project, and one which I had only just begun!


3. How has your experience in China being compared with your expectations?
I often get asked this question, and my honest answer is that I went in with very few expectations, so while everything was new and exciting, I did not have much to compare it to, and therefore was not surprised by anything in particular. However, one thing which left a deep impression on me and continues to inspire me today are the encounters I had with fellow young people while living in Beijing. After moving into the hutongs, I made friends with people in a variety of industries, from baristas and musicians to architects and artists. 
I was excited to find people who were passionate about their industries, and also deep thinkers on a wide range of issues. It was the long discussions with these friends which helped me better understand China, and also left me with plenty of reasons to keep coming back. While the university is a great place to meet fellow students, and the teachers I encountered taught me a lot, I also found a lot of joy in the serendipitous encounters with people from all walks of life. Beijing is an incredibly diverse place, and as I met more of its many different faces, I was regularly surprised, confused, and often delighted. Locals (and adopted ‘laowai’ locals) will tell you that Beijing is the cultural (and political) capital of this country, and in my experience, it certainly lived up to that reputation.
4. What has been the biggest challenge since you arrived in China?
The biggest challenge was perhaps initially finding my way around society without language skills. For the first six months, I was adamant not to only hang out with foreigners, and in my attempt to speak more Chinese, I felt the limitations of my small vocabulary and clumsy expression. This was certainly a challenge as I had many very dull conversations and desired deeper connections and more interesting topics. However, I began to enjoy the learning process and the feeling of being able to discuss broader topics. I was lucky that there were some fantastic people willing to talk to me in Chinese and they have become friends for life. Not being able to properly express yourself is a very humbling experience, and I was very much inspired by the incredible English language skills of my Chinese friends who I met at English debating tournaments around Asia. After developing language skills, it became a lot easier to navigate around the country, and in turn find the places and people who made my stay so rewarding. The willingness of Chinese people to hear you out, even when your Chinese is not very good, was very impressive, and led me to reflect on the experience of Chinese students coming to Australia. On this point, we may have some things to learn, and after returning to Australia I made every effort to reach out to exchange students, mostly through the Australia China Youth Association (ACYA). Organising the Australia China Emerging Leader’s Summit in Beijing in 2017 showed me the power of cross cultural exchange, and of communities of like-minded people. With these kind of organisations, the challenges I mentioned before are easily resolved.

5. What impact has your Chinese education and/or the Chinese language had on you? And how do you hope to maintain your connection with China?
Spending two years in China fundamentally changed the direction of my studies. I became fascinated by the complexity of contemporary China, a place which is simultaneously steeped in history and bourgeoning with modernity. After returning to Perth I began working with Dr Yu Tao at UWA as a research assistant. In 2018, we published an article in the journal Religions, and wrote an article in Asian Currents, the Australian Asian Studies Association’s official website, both focusing on the religious affiliations of Chinese Australians. In 2018, I also began an honours degree in Asian Studies, which I have just completed. I have become particularly interested in studying Chinese religious organisations, and better understanding the religious lives of Chinese people, both in China and around the world. Over the last two years, I have spent some time in Chinese temples, and in July of this year I will be working at a temple in Fujian for a month, translating and helping organise a meditation program. The rich religious history of China is a fascinating topic, and one which am very much enjoying learning more about. My current research is focused on the contemporary relationship between religious organisations and society. I am very much looking forward to continuing this research at Oxford, and if I am able to, developing a project which could become a PhD.

Aside from research, my China experience has opened up several work-related opportunities. I worked at the UWA Confucius Institute, helping organise public lectures and one academic conference, and was the host for several bilingual events around Perth. I was particularly excited to act as MC and translator for the Inner Mongolian Arts University during their tour of UWA. Over the last few years I have learned some Mongolian (Tuvan) throat singing techniques, and being able to meet a throat singing master was a real treat. Since that tour I have kept in touch with Mailasu, and visited him in Houhot. We are currently planning a trip to Tuva in 2020 for the International Throat Singing festival, which I am very much looking forward to. I have also been able to work on a few short documentary projects, one about Yiwu, and over the next few months a project centring around the Jingjinji urban-cluster.

6. What would you say to other Australian students thinking about studying overseas and/or China?
I would highly encourage other students to come to China for their exchange. I would also recommend getting out to see different parts of China, not just Shanghai and Beijing. Definitely take a train to the middle of nowhere and have a look around. The south-western provinces are particularly beautiful (same as Australia if you ask me!), and I would highly recommend Yunnan and Sichuan. Also while you are in China, don’t be afraid of reaching out to locals, and finding people with common interests. 
I will always remember fondly the afternoons in the hutongs drinking tea and listening to a fengshui master talk about philosophy. China is a hugely diverse place, and it can offer both the advantages of large cities and bustling economies, and also the serenity of great scenery and ancient culture. While it may take some time to find, there are a world of possibilities in China waiting for you.

7. If you could take one thing/technology/lifestyle back to Australia from China, what would it be?
If I could take one thing from China back to Australia it would be the incredible selection of teas that Chinese tea masters have been perfecting for over a thousand years. I have worked in speciality coffee for many years and believe that the diversity and quality of Chinese tea would be very much appreciated by our coffee crazed country. Over the last few years I have had several teas which really amazed me, and every time I go back to China I have picked up new teas to share with my friends in Australia. 

8. Describe a place/food/experience in China that you particularly enjoyed.
As a vegan, I really enjoyed the culinary experience of living in China. I was lucky to spend one month in a temple near Ningbo, and the vegetarian cuisine offered in the temple for the monastics was delicious. There are Buddhist buffet restaurants in most cities, and once you know what to ask for, most places can sort you a vegan dish. The alcohol of China is also fascinating, from the craft beer of Beijing to the multiple different types of fermented wines, including my personal favourite 竹叶青 from Shanxi province. Each province will have its own variations of fruit based wine, rice wine and increasingly interesting beers and wine. The combination of tradition and innovation in food in China is fascinating to observe. However, all that being said, it is really hard to go past a BBQ (烤串) and a draft beer on the street, a tried and trusted combination.

9. Do you have any tips for students coming to China or thinking of coming to China?
The advice I got just before I left was simple: get stuck into it. I think this advice is great for any time in life, but particularly as you are thrust into a new culture, the best approach in my opinion, is to soak up as much of it as you can. The more you learn, the more you realise there is to know, and the more enjoyable it becomes. Definitely seek out mentors, and people who have done this before, as they will often be able to help you out. Be it recommending good language learning techniques, or introducing you to fun places, don't be afraid to reach out to others and ask for advice.
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