Rino Wiseman Adhikary is developing a regional understanding of education policy

Alfred Deakin Research Fellow, Dr Rino Wiseman Adhikary was born and raised in Bangladesh near its borders with India. As a child, Rino was exposed to a diverse array of Asian cultures including Indian, Chinese, and Japanese as well Western influences through television, the internet and music. All of these together with his upbringing within a small suburban Catholic community had a unique impact on his development and career path. Here he outlines his discovery of Western philosophy and his interest in the global education agenda.

What has been your career path up until now?

I began my education at a Catholic missionary school with a focus on science subjects but after changing schools for years 11 and 12, my interest shifted to the arts and humanities. During my Bachelor of Arts, I was exposed to Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and some of the psychoanalytics of Sigmund Freud. That is when I realised the value of social and political sciences, the arts and humanities. I went on to complete a Master of Arts in English Literature.

In 2006, I started teaching Cambridge English at a school in Dhaka, but I wanted greater opportunities so I moved to BRAC University, initially as a junior professional in education, and then as a lecturer in education. BRAC is the world’s largest NGO and has established its own university. Their Master’s program in educational leadership, planning and management was designed for government officials, NGO managers, school leaders and heads of department. I was learning a lot from academics from US and UK institutions who helped design the program and co-taught with us. That was my first education in education.

After some time at BRAC, I was encouraged to further my education abroad, so I applied to universities overseas and was awarded an Erasmus Mundus scholarship by the European Commission that supports joint programs under a consortia of three higher education institutions. In my case they were universities in London, Spain and Scandinavia. I completed a Masters in Lifelong Learning at Aarhus University in Denmark and a European MA in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management at the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain.

Can you talk about your PhD?

The expectations of globalisation and its demand for openness has led governments in developing countries to share some of their authority with emerging new forms of power, such as, philanthropic organisations. Philanthropic agencies have increased involvement in governing education via their philanthropy as part of a global education agenda, to which nation-states are also committed. As philanthropic organisations bring reform models to developing nations, partnerships take many different forms and effects. I studied one such unique reform model known as Teach for Bangladesh.

Teach for Bangladesh is an alternative program of teacher preparation modelled after its US original Teach for America. It bypasses the traditional requirements for teacher qualifications. These teachers are funded by philanthropy and are given an initial training of 15 days before being placed into government schools with teacher shortages. It can be quite contraindicatory to ideas of teacher training and the role of government in this area.

I studied Teach for Bangladesh as an example of how global reform models travel and touch down in developing countries. The program also illustrates the rise of social entrepreneurship in education and education policy. Two renowned Australian scholars in the field of education policy – Professor Bob Lingard and Associate Professor Ian Hardy – supervised my PhD research.

How does your research impact the community?

It is important to ensure that individuals still have opportunities to get an education and improve their lives wherever they live. There is also the issue of freedom of choice. It is the responsibility equally of the global and the national, or the west and east to figure out how everyone can be given the chance to live a productive and healthy life. My research examines and seeks to address practical governance issues that are critical to the attainment of quality and equitable education and lifelong learning for all (Sustainable Development Goal 4), which in turn is basic to a healthy, secure and productive life in any given community.

Why did you choose to continue your work at Deakin?

At Deakin I work within REDI. To me, REDI is about impact so I felt that I should be part of this research organisation if I wanted to make an impact myself. My research interests align with those of Associate Professor Radhika Gorur, who is also a REDI member and my mentor. REDI amply provides all the opportunities that a researcher needs to engage and grow in education policy research in the context of developing countries.

What are you currently working on?

My Alfred Deakin Fellowship project is about developing a regional understanding of education policy, particularly by analysing the uptake of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is about quality and equitable education and lifelong learning for all by 2030.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 4 is coordinated by UNESCO.

I am interested in understanding the attainment of this goal in the Asia Pacific. In particular, I am interested in comparing Bangladesh, India and Malaysia with Australia. I plan to visit each of these countries, talk to the people involved in policy development, and learn from their understanding of the targets and how to attain them locally.

What are your next steps and challenges?

The first challenge presented by my fellowship is to understand the network of knowledge surrounding me at Deakin. A prerequisite for developing myself is to understand what constitutes the major concerns, themes and debates related to my research. There will also be technical and communication challenges related to my research project. Now that the project has been ethically approved and data collection is well underway, it is time to write about what I have learnt thus far from my research.

It is a challenging path, but I am up for it!

News 19 October 2022