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Alumnus contributing to the development of Mongolia through education and research

Posted: 21 October 2022

Alumni, Experience, Impact,

Australia Awards alumnus Munkh-Erdene Gantulga is using his Australian education to benefit Mongolia through education and research on current social and developmental issues in the country. He completed a Master of Development Studies from the University of Melbourne in 2020 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. He also holds a Bachelor of Ethnology and a Master of Sociocultural Anthropology from the National University of Mongolia.

Munkh-Erdene currently works as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the National University of Mongolia. We sat down with him to discuss his career and how he is helping transform education in Mongolia.

Can you describe the work you are doing in your field and how it contributes to the development of Mongolia?

Beyond my role as Senior Lecturer at the National University of Mongolia, I have a strong interest in conducting anthropological research on many different topics, including the social life of ‘ninja’ miners (artisanal gold miners), nationalism, cultural heritage, globalisation, capitalism, development, informal economy, pastoralist lifestyle and mining in Mongolia.

I have published around 20 publications and peer-reviewed articles in high-quality journals. All of them are about the current social and developmental issues in Mongolia, like capitalism, the informal economy, cultural heritage issues, etc. I believe that my publications are useful for policymakers and people who are involved in the decision-making process. In this way, my research contributes to the development of Mongolia, especially to improvement in the higher education and academic research sector.

How has your Australia Awards Scholarship contributed to your career?

Many Mongolians I come across talk about how to develop the country or how to improve social and economic issues in Mongolia. However, I feel that their concepts are mainly based on ‘Modernisation Theory’ (a neglected theory from the early 1970s), and many have never heard about Development Studies as a field. Development is an academic or research-based topic. It is not generalised statements about growing the gross domestic product; it is Human Development.

After completing my studies in Australia, I joined the National University of Mongolia and started to teach a course called ‘Anthropology of Development: Globalisation and Liberalism’, which is based on my experience at the University of Melbourne. This is the first course on this subject in Mongolia to create a meaningful and productive discussion atmosphere for a general audience who are interested in development. We must take this matter seriously and professionally, not simply copy what ‘developed countries’ are doing or ask for development assistance from others. In this way, my Australia Awards Scholarship helped my career and the development studies community in this country. Through this course, I was able to introduce many studies and readings to my students for the first time and they discovered interesting aspects and viewpoints on development-related issues such as inequality, civil society and liberalism. I am very confident to say that many students of the course now understand what development really means.

Finally, as you may be aware, earlier this month we celebrated World Teachers’ Day. This year’s theme was ‘The transformation of education begins with teachers’. What is your key message to your fellow alumni and others in response to this theme?

I would like to say, ‘be productive where you work’. Don’t only follow the existing establishment, but also challenge it. If you learn something meaningful from Australia, please teach it to others in whatever way you can—post on social media, organise events or publish something about it. Teaching and learning are not only for classrooms but far beyond that. Be active and be the starting point of the ‘’Transformation of Education’’.

Also, I want to express my deepest appreciation to Australia Awards for its continuous support to researchers and lecturers, like me, as they have a passion for creating a discussion of change and transformation.