"Canada’s Asia Challenge: Building Skills and Knowledge for the Next Generation" Conference Summary Report

Author: Erin Williams

This report summarizes the key findings and recommendations of the "Canada's Asia Challenge: Building Skills and Knowledge for the Next Generation" conference, held in Calgary in October 2014. The report reflects many of the contributions from speakers and participants, and provides a 'road map' for moving this agenda forward.

Highlights from the report include:

1. We need to update our understanding of what Asia competence means for the 21st century, including for a variety of Canadian contexts and workplaces.

Recommendation: Take a deeper dive into how Canadians use their Asia skills and knowledge in a range of occupations and purposes. Share that information with employers, educators and students so they can develop more targeted plans and initiatives.

2. We need to better leverage the resources we already have, both on- and off-campus, to broaden Canadians' exposure to Asian national and cultural perspectives.

Recommendation: Expand young Canadians' on-the-ground experience (through internships, study abroad, etc.) in Asia, not just in terms of quantity of participation, but also in terms of the quality of what they learn. In addition, make better use of the diversity on our campuses to facilitate young Canadians' learning from their Asian peers.

3. We need to generate curiosity and excitement about Asia at the K-12 level. While some Canadian high schools have prioritized global awareness and skills, these are more the exception than the rule.

Recommendation: Showcase best practices from globally-engaged high schools and primary schools, both in Canada and in other countries, to provide models for others to follow. Find out from these and other interested schools what types of resources would best support them in teaching more about Asia.

4. We need to rethink our messages and widen the circle of advocates and supporters.

Recommendation: Review and refine how we make the case with different audiences for a more Asia-competent Canada. Develop a strategy for identifying and engaging different 'influencer groups'.

5. We need a leader. The "Canada's Asia Challenge" conference was an initial step in what will be a much longer-term commitment. Success will hinge on the ability and willingness of an organization to be a convener, coordinator, advocate and catalyst.

Recommendation: The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, given its mandate and recent work in this area, should assume this role.

For a link to the 2014 conference website, click here.

For a copy of the 2013 Asia Competence Task Force report, click here.

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