International education has developed rapidly over the past decade, as advances in global travel and technology have made the world more accessible, both physically and digitally. However, we now live in unprecedented and uncertain times with the Covid-19 pandemic enveloping civilizations throughout the world. Not only have we been forced to adapt our behaviors rapidly against a real threat to humankind, but we have developed an isolationist mind-set, adopting social distancing to protect ourselves and those closest to us.
As we grapple with the concept of non-contact, this challenging worldwide situation has opened our eyes to the inherent social nature of humankind, finding ways to grow our skills and knowledge of advanced technology to enhance our connectivity remotely.
International education has been such an enriching benefit of our interdependent world as we knew it – exploring cultural diversity where core values are challenged. Does today’s pandemic put an abrupt halt to this globalisation and transnational awareness or is this an opportunity to discover more innovative ways of connecting globally and building our cross-cultural competencies?
Higher education institutes around the world are asking precisely this question and searching for real-time solutions as imposed lockdowns are gradually eased and a new normal is slowly unveiled. Clearly, we all see the world through different lenses and have different and often conflicting priorities and core values. However, it is the understanding of this diversity, the multiple perspectives and cultural differences that forms the very foundation of international education. Not only is it about developing a global mind-set, but developing critical skills such as agile mindfulness, decision-making, situational evaluation and relationship-building that an international educational experience can provide with its immersion in cultural, attitudinal and behavioural diversity. Can an online education substitute this engagement with diversity or will international education be mothballed and confined to storage until we re-emerge and return to global travel as we knew it?
Read the full article here in our July 2020 issue.