UNDERSTANDING SOCIAL IMPACT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD: THE ROLE OF SHORT TERM STUDY TOURS BETWEEN AUSTRALIA AND ASIA

G. Melles

Swinburne University (AUSTRALIA)
In the context of the sustainable development goals (SGDs) setting the agenda for 2015-2030, higher education institutions of the rich industrialized need to ask how they can engage students in the development challenges of the middle and lower income countries. In addition to the necessary intellectual content, direct exposure to such challenges through field visits to the countries concerned enables a more direct engagement with the realities of poverty reduction and appropriate technology innovation, among other dimensions of sustainable development. Higher education curricula are, notwithstanding increasingly crowded with course requirements, finding time and occasion especially for undergraduates in crowded fee-based courses to create potentially transformative learning experience is a challenge. Among the many options available, short term study tours are a recent learning architecture (Wenger 1998), allowing students to develop learning, meaning and identity in an embedded context. This small-scale practitioner reflective education paper, includes survey data from previous students (n=29), interviews (n=4), and a personal reflective account of the development, delivery and results of four Australian government subsidised study tours focused on sustainability and social impact in South Asia. I illustrate the challenges and opportunities of ESD through interview and document analysis of four social impact study abroad programs to Asia (India, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia) lead by Swinburne University.