The global economy is going through rapid change, becoming more globally connected as well as technologically advanced. How should education deal with these changes? We talked to Emilia Fields, Director of Whitefriars International Student Programme and winner of Business Worldwide Magazine’s 2017 CEO Award in the category of ‘Executive of the Year Education Industry Australia.’

Education is one of the battlegrounds of international and national politics, and there are wildly different views on what constitutes a useful education. This conflict is becoming particularly apparent as the global economy is undergoing significant change, shifting power from West to East. Technological innovation is ongoing. New structures of society, social mobility and aspiration are also emerging, meaning that global populations have never been more educated or skilled.

What is the mission of education in the midst of all this change? Whitefriars is a Catholic (Carmelite) College for boys located in Melbourne, Australia, which opened its doors in 1961. The College is officially registered by Austrade to recruit international students, and the International Student Programme has been running for 20 years.

Emilia Fields is Director of Whitefriars International Student Programme, and her list of responsibilities is extensive. She co-ordinates the Homestay Programme and recruits the respective homestay families. She promotes the programne and the recruitment of international students and also selects and liaises with Whitefriars’ Accredited Agents overseas.

She acts as PRISMS Administrator (Enrolment, Welfare and Records) and VRQA Policy Assurance Officer (Victorian Government). She also oversees the Bridging Programme, which is a 20 week intensive English course for new international students.

She has a variety of voluntary roles, such as President of Vision International (an association of Victorian secondary schools), Representative of Victorian Non-Government Schools at the Ministerial Round Table (a Victorian State Government initiative) and Member of the Victorian Student Interest Group (A Victorian Education Department project).

She is a life member of the ACE (Australian College of Educators) and a member of the ISANA Association.

With such a varied career experience and influence, Field’s views on the nature of global education offer potential for learning. We asked her how Whitefriars represents the international community in its educational programme. Her response is distilled in seven core ideals.

One: Education is the most important investment in a child’s life

“There is no greater gift parents can give to their children than a good education. I believe this is the greatest investment in a child’s life. It can empower the individual with lifetime skills, intellectual curiosity and build knowledge and skills for their future life journey.

Education will also build community and family bonds, personal excellence and life skills. These skills will empower the individual to live a better quality life in a global and sustainable world. It is important that teachers are provided with the time and tools to help the students to achieve these goals.”

Two: International education helps us move towards a global economy and international co-operation

“An international education helps develop an international outlook. A global citizen will recognise and accept that everyone is different and be very sensitive and considerate of others.

Students need to be globally connected. Global gateways provide breadth and an intense cultural awareness. Education departments are fostering the introduction of new languages in schools to enable better global communication and a deeper cultural awareness.

It is also important for global citizens to acquire skills they can apply to their future jobs and careers. These skills will enable students to become more creative and more flexible and be able to take advantage of new types of jobs in a changing world.”

Three: Achieving intercultural competency

“Global citizens should be able to understand and accept cultural differences and work with people from many different countries and religious beliefs. To do so, they need to become psychologically and emotionally mature to accept the diverse and global world in which we live. Education is the catalyst for this intercultural development.”

Four: Education has a ‘ripple effect,’ leading to a balanced adulthood.

“Schools recognise the benefits of a balanced lifestyle and the importance of participation in activities outside the school and home environment. Personal disposition and resilience will enable them to adapt to a changing world.

We also live in a time of immense technological change. The world is becoming more connected, meaning that the role of education will change. Projects can be undertaken online as a result of having access to vast reservoirs of information. It allows schools to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, which have high-tech platforms connecting students with the wider global community.”

Five: Pastoral and holistic skills

“I believe that students need help and guidance in developing attitudes and skills to equip them for life beyond school. They should feel a sense of the intrinsic value of belonging to a community. We should guide them to develop a sense of responsibility and service to others, which will enable them to contribute to the wider community.

The values we should foster are compassion, empathy, justice, honesty and integrity, and a gentleness of spirit – and enable them to display these skills in their everyday lives.

Students learn better when they are provided with an environment where each individual is welcome, where they are loved for who they are, and are well supported in reaching their potential spiritually, academically, physically, socially and emotionally. Emotional intelligence, we know now, is essential to learning.”

Six: Technological development and the changing nature of study and work

“Technology should encourage students to become more creative in understanding the economy of the country and enable individuals to create their own opportunities.

We need to encourage young minds to be collaborative and creative through the sensible use of technology, which should enhance learning and critical thinking rather than be a substitute for those skills.”

Seven: Teaching and learning

“Teachers should gather the information needed to collect strong evidence of student learning. They should target their teaching and learning strategy to the wide range of student needs. No student should go unnoticed – high achievers should be extended, and lower achievers should be supported.

Schools should foster a culture of ‘progress’ where teachers, parents and students respect the learning process as being about ‘effort and improvement’ not just ‘ability and attainment.’

Assessment should be seen as a way to improve rather than exposing students to failure.

I strongly believe that the best schools are not necessarily those with the best ATAR but those which empower students to make the greatest progress in learning. We should aim for each student to have made at least a year’s worth of progress every year.”

Conclusion – a connected education

Global education needs to respond to the growing economic, political, and socio-cultural interdependency between countries. If the perspectives of Emilia Fields are anything to go by, Whitefriars is leading the way to a very different form of learning.