Reverse Colombo Plan a Positive Thought That Needs to Become Reality

A good and diverse education is probably the most important part of the life of any child or young adult growing up in any nation around the world. So it goes that the Colombo Plan introduced by Sir Robert Menzies while in government, with a main goal being to foster the education of people from developing nations in our region was a good idea with a strong world view a major outcome for students involved.

Further, so it goes too that the idea of a reverse Colombo Plan as proposed by the Abbott-led Opposition is a smart adaptation of the current iteration, the Australia Awards, which will give more Australian based students the opportunity to study in an Asian nation, better preparing those chosen for the already proclaimed ‘Asian Century‘.

The Colombo Plan as far as it went for Australia as with the current Australia Awards grants students from Asian nations scholarships to attend university here in Australia and it had been undertaken by some now very well established business and political leaders in our region.

Not only was the original Colombo Plan responsible for educating some of the talented people in leadership positions around Asia but it was and is also a very smart diplomatic move that was in a big way a part of Australia beginning to open itself up to the non-European world which really first started to occur under Menzies and successive Liberal and Labor Prime Ministers and has continued to evolve ever since.

A strong worldview is very important in the development of the minds of students who as a result become well-equipped to deal with and be aware of their region and the world around them.

The Colombo Plan and its latest version too has and will allow young adults to get a better education than they may well have been able to have had they remained in their country of birth for tertiary studies.

The plan to send Australian students on scholarship to Asian universities will have much the same effect on our students that the Coalition plans to give the opportunity to travel overseas for their education.

It will allow Australian students a first-hand experience at cultures they may have been exposed to here in Australia but may not have immersed themselves in or learnt so much about the particular range and diversity of cultures and beliefs that exist in our regional vicinity.

The knock-on economic benefits of a Colombo style plan, whether it be the existing setup or a future reverse iteration would also surely be a not insignificant positive because of students plunging money into universities here and abroad through purchases made on campus that aren’t part of scholarship funds.

Not only that but the positives for the broader economy of respective nations having extra people coming in and spending money not just on education but on leisure and tourist activities are also a worthy part of the equation.

There is an argument that has been doing the rounds, courtesy of former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, that the reverse Colombo Plan would be responsible for less overseas students being funded to come to Australia and this is in some respects true. If funding levels remained the same on our behalf and there was no funding agreed to by Asian nations as part of the plan, of course the result goes without saying.

However, there is no particular reason why funding could not be negotiated between nations involved in the Colombo Plan so that Australian students could benefit from an overseas education in Asia. It doesn’t have to result in the same or similar numbers of Australian students being given scholarships to be educated in Asian universities as those from Asian nations educated here, though that would be the optimal outcome.

The extra funding too could be found by engaging with businesses from Australia and the Asian region and seeking funding from them to allow for more scholarships for Australian students to study in this corner of the globe and this has been highlighted as an avenue of investigation by the Coalition. It seems reasonable to assume that businesses would certainly be amenable to the move, especially if it meant access to a broader range of talent.

Continuing and expanding this program to include a bigger outward flow of students is a positive idea from the Coalition and one that deserves more thought and planning so that it is actually realised under a future government and is an idea that would benefit from an earlier implementation if they felt like they were struggling for a good idea.

About Tom Bridge

A perennial student of politics, providing commentary for money and for free. Email me at tbridgey@gmail.com or contact me on 0435 035 095 for engagements.

Posted on July 6, 2012, in Federal Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nice idea had it not been proposed by Phoney Tony and the NO Coalition. I seriously doubt that it would be implemented by such neo-conservatives whose fundamental concept is essentially ‘survival of the fittest’.

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