Speech by the Hon Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs,
at the opening of the Australian Institute of Languages
Hanoi, 24 July 2001
(Check Against Delivery)
Australia and Vietnam: Our Growing Education links
It's a great pleasure for me to be here today at the opening of the Australian Institute of Languages (Austil). I'm visiting Vietnam to attend the 8th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the 34th ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC). These are very important regional meetings, which Vietnam is chairing this year.
This function gives me a welcome opportunity to reiterate Australia's profound commitment to our bilateral relationship with Vietnam. The strength of that relationship was symbolised during my visit here in May last year, when I had the honour of co-opening the My Thuan Bridge, Australia's largest ever single overseas development assistance project. It is symbolised again today through the opening of Austil.
Education links are an important part of our bilateral relationship. They have grown largely in response to increased demand for education and training in Vietnam that has resulted from the shift to a market economy and the achievement of strong economic growth.
Our education links are taking many forms.
Under Australia' development assistance program, around 500 students from Vietnam are studying at Australian tertiary institutions on Australian Development Scholarships. The areas covered are broad and include management, economics, agriculture, science and technology, environmental management and public health. Australia also supports a range of training courses delivered in Vietnam under our development assistance program.
Overall, education and training is Australia's single largest export to Vietnam. The number of Vietnamese students in Australia has increased significantly. Around 4,000 Vietnamese students study in Australia annually, with over three-quarters of the total being full fee-paying private students. That means there are many more Vietnamese studying in Australia than in any other overseas country.
The Australian Institute of Languages
Austil is a wonderful example of the growing education links between our two countries.
As a cooperative venture between the Vietnam National University, the University of New South Wales and the Australian Centre for Languages (ACL), Austil involves institutions in both countries that together set down quality and assurance standards, ensuring that the programs genuinely meet the needs of the students in Vietnam.
Austil's courses are aimed at delivering to students the English knowledge and skills that are needed for the International English tests, such as IELTS and TOEFL. And they are delivered by highly qualified and experienced professional teachers.
We all know how important it is for countries in our modern, inter-connected world to have a good number of citizens with a high level of proficiency in English if they are to gain fully the benefits of globalisation.
Since I was here, Vietnam has won its first-ever Olympic medal, a Silver in Women's Taekwondo (57kg division), at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The Games demonstrated one of the impacts of globalisation, by showing how much technological advances in communications are making the world a smaller place.
In its own way, Austil will help Vietnam in the process of meeting the challenges of globalisation. I wish all those involved, and especially the students, the very best as they embark on this exciting new endeavour.
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