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Lakeside EAIE focused on a diverse future, with harnessed edtech

“You are the laboratory” might not quite be “you are the future”, but international educators and industry delegates in Geneva last week were buoyed by the recognition of the international HE sector as at the vanguard of designing what societies will look like in future.

Environmental concerns are forgotten, argued some at EAIE

These words, of Leo Johnson’s closing plenary, brought an end to the 30th annual EAIE conference in the Swiss city.

“Metric focused education will help find jobs, but they certainly aren’t going to fill their life with meaning”

Delegates in Geneva heard calls for the need to be adaptable to future, extra social inclusion in international experiences and added training and commitment to internationalisation strategies.

But in Leo Johnson’s closing plenary he suggested the world has arrived at a crossroads, where two possible futures have “crash landed”.

While the future is not clear, universities can be the testing grounds for society.

“You are the laboratory,” Johnson told delegates. “You are [in] this extraordinary space where you can slam these students together, immerse them with each other, and with the problems that are out there, help and convert that human capital, not into something that is displaced and made idle by the machine.”

Technology will undoubtedly make a huge impact as countries begin to drift away from Henry Ford’s city of fossil fuel-based mass production, towards the city of the algorithm, he claimed.

“If we start to see these exponential technologies coming through, then all sorts of sectors that we have come to depend on… start to look a little bit vulnerable,” including education, he said.

“As people start to lose their jobs, and unemployment and zero hour contracts start to go up, as wages go down and pressures on quality of life go up, you see more demand for populist policies [and] protectionist measures that reduce trade and openness, the influx of new innovators, and that reduce growth.”

“There seems to be a gap between literature, practitioners, and policymakers”

His comments echoed Sally Kohn’s opening plenary where she championed international education as a natural way to overcome the idea that humans that are “hardwired” to hate. But diversity is key, she said.

“Just by being put in a multi-racial grouping, unconscious biases can be reduced,” she said. Johnson called for change to the education industry to give students lives “full of meaning”.

“From education being metric focused, from equipping kids to tick the boxes on the exams, that will help them potentially find jobs that might exist but which certainly aren’t going to fill them with a life full of meaning.”

This year’s theme, ‘Facing Outwards’, saw sessions focus on inclusion and diversity.

Adinda Van Gaalen, from Nuffic in the Netherlands, emphasised the need to include policy makers to direct national policy.

“There seems to be a sort of gap between literature and practitioners who see the results and the effects, but some how it doesn’t lead up to the policy makers anymore,” she said.

“Social exclusion… is on the radar of national governments, particularly in Europe,” Van Gaalen stated.

Erasmus+ students tend to come from the same homogenous background, she said, adding that in the US, there are programs to stimulate students from “lower information and immigration backgrounds” to study abroad.

“Social exclusion is on the radar of national governments”

Van Gaalen added that there is very little attention paid to the undesired affects of national policies.

She said that despite awareness of environmental impacts  of travelling, the international strategies she has read were missing  the issue.

The second annual ‘EAIE Barometer‘, looking at HE internationalisation across Europe, released during the week-long event, revealed what researchers describe as a surprisingly homogenous approach to practices intended to boost institutional internationalisation.

In 2017, educators were reminded of their role in combatting protectionist ideologies and ensuring everyone benefits from increasing globalisation at the 2017 EAIE Conference in Seville.

EAIE’s 2019 conference will be held in Helsinki.

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