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Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum


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Ministerial Consultative Council

on Curriculum

Asian Studies in

Queensland Schools

W. Muller and M. Wong



W. Muller and M. Wong

Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum


Curriculum by Mr Wayne Muller and Mrs Magdeline Wong as part of its Issues in Education series. While the paper has been commissioned by the Council as a means of encouraging debate, the views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.


Wayne Muller is a Lecturer in the Division of Education, Griffith University, Brisbane.

Magdeline Wong is a Subject Mistress currently seconded to the Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum.

The Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum is an autonomous body which reports to the Queensland Parliament on all aspects of the curriculum to be taught in Queensland schools during the compulsory years.

@Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum' 991 Muller, Wayne.

Asian studies in Queensland schools.


ISBN 0 7242 4371 2.

1. Oriental languages - Study and teaching - Queensland.

2. Asia - Study and teaching - Queensland. I. Wong, M.

(Magdeline). II. Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum (Qld.). III. Title. (Series : Issues in education (Brisbane, Old.); no. 4).


V. R. Ward, Government Printer, Queensland-1991 122532



Introduction: Why Asian studies? 1

Curriculum implications 3

What is `Asian studies'? 3

The concept of Asia literacy 3

Curriculum models for the study of Asia and its languages 5 Asian languages and Asian cultural studies 5

Courses in Asian studies 9

Asian studies in a balanced curriculum 13

Curriculum planning and implementation 14

Whole school planning on Asian studies 14

Establishing appropriate objectives for Asian studies 15 The interdependence of Australian studies and Asian studies 17

Classroom implications 19

Classroom challenges in studies of other cultures 19

The need for appropriate resources 22

The need for teacher pre-service and in-service 22

Conclusion 24

References 25



Leaders of Australia have said that our destiny lies in the Asian region.

The Government has called for a National Strategy in education to equip Australians to deal with that destiny.

We wonder how many Australians realise quite how profoundly Australia lacks the means to plan for and manage its future as part of the Asian region (Asian Studies Council 1988, p. 1).

`Asian studies' is an emergent national and state priority area of the school curriculum. The introductory statement to the National Strategy, developed by the Asian Studies Council in 1988, quite starkly states the previous level of educational neglect in this area.

The first 200 years of white settlement in Australia have been largely characterised by a strong orientation towards an Anglo-Saxon heritage and an ignorance and fear of Asia. These fears have operated at the broader level of social attitudes and national priorities and have been reflected in curriculum imbalances in the education system. An earlier attempt to focus Australian attention on Asia through the educational initiative of Asian studies emerged in the mid-1960s. This initiative was largely driven by national anxieties regarding diplomacy and defence, partly driven by the withdrawal of a British presence from the region and partly by the emergence of ideological conflicts in Asia itself (Mahony 1990, p. 2). Given the quite remarkable growth of many Asian economies and the vulnerable state of our own economy, the late 1980s have seen a renewed emphasis on the importance of Asia to Australia, with this movement again being driven by anxieties, this time of an economic nature.

This has resulted in the current thrust to place studies of Asia and its languages as a high priority in Australian educational reform during the next decade.

Specifically, Federal Government concern at the current failure of education systems to respond to the increasing importance of the economic relationships


between Asia and Australia, as well as the ongoing failure of these same systems to acknowledge the geographical reality of Australia as a Pacific Rim/Asian nation, led to the formation of the Asian Studies Council in late 1986. The Council's activities have led to:

the publication of the National Strategy For The Study Of Asia In Australia;

the report Asia in Australian Higher Education (also known as the Ingleson Report);

the funding of curriculum materials such as Asia Wise and Asia Links;

the current development of national school curriculum materials in Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese languages;

the sponsorship of a national conference on `Asian Studies In Australian Schools' which was held in November 1990; and

the funding of specific projects around the country.

In Queensland, these Federal initiatives have been complemented by:

significant funding for the study of foreign languages, including Asian languages announced in the 1990 state budget;

the commissioning of a document on The Teaching of Languages and Cultures In Queensland (prepared for the Queensland Education Department by The Centre For Applied Linguistics and Languages, Griffith University, and generally known as the Ingram Report);

the establishment of a `Languages and Culture Unit' within the Studies Directorate of the Queensland Education Department; and

the commencement in July 1990 of a two year `Asian Studies Curriculum Development Project' by the Queensland Education Department.

The scope of these national and state initiatives point to the need for a synopsis of and commentary on major issues concerning the study of Asia and its languages, which is the purpose of this monograph. The aim is to encourage teachers to debate these issues so that Asian studies can be appropriately included across the primary and secondary school curriculum.


CURRICULUM IMPLICATIONS What is 'Asian studies'?

Asian studies can be difficult to define given the enormity and diversity of Asia and the multifaceted nature of its cultures. For the purposes of this monograph, Asian studies is regarded as the study of Asia, its languages, societies, cultures, economies, history, and geography. It is not just about seeing Asia from an Asian perspective. It is also about seeing Australia from an Asian perspective.

The concept of Asia literacy

Renewed interest in Asian studies has produced a number of catchphrases, notably `Asia-skilled', `Asia-competent' and `Asia-literate'. Becoming 'Asia- skilled' or `Asia-competent' alludes to the development of an economic or technical capacity to match that of Asian countries. The concept assumes, rightly or wrongly, that Australians lack the skills and competencies normally associated with Asian peoples. It is also an acknowledgment that we have failed to learn from and adapt for our purposes all that Asia could have offered.

Meanwhile Asian peoples have not been negligent in learning about and from the West.

Literacy is concerned with language competency and an understanding of the cultural nuances that determine appropriate use of language in social or business contexts (draft Literacy Strategy Plan, Queensland Department of Education 1990). Although the concept of Asia literacy does include language competency, it goes beyond this. The concept also embraces the notion of cultural literacy in a form that transcends a superficial familiarity with customs, dress, food, and social norms. Dr Stephen Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Asian Studies Council, interprets Asia literacy as intellectual preparedness, through the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of Asia and of Asian languages, for Australia's integration into the Asian region (Fitzgerald 1990, p. 20). The term

`Asia literacy', therefore, refers to the intellectual uses of the study of Asia and the question of the Australian identity. Through the understanding of Asian societies and cultures, Australians may gain new insight into what it means to


be Australian in the current era and beyond. The inter-relatedness between Asian and Australian studies will be analysed later in this monograph.

It is this concept of intellectual preparedness which presents the real challenge to the school curriculum. The issue is one of changing the culture within which knowledge has been selected in order to produce a generation of truly `Asia literate' Australians.

Dr Jiri Neustupny, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies at Monash University, distinguishes between three levels of Asia literacy:

Asia Literacy 1: This has the primary objective of promoting a wide understanding of Asian societies and cultures by all Australians.

. Asia Literacy 2: This incorporates Asia Literacy 1 but adds skills in communicating with Asian people through the medium of English, with introductory studies in socio-linguistics and Asian languages.

. Asia Literacy 3: This involves the training of a number of students in Asian languages to a high level of competence with some students reaching semi-native speaker levels (Neustupny 1989, p. 17).

Dr Neustupny argues that all young Australians should be educated to at least one of these three levels of Asia literacy but cautions that linguistic studies envisaged for Asia Literacy 3 `should never be available without Asia Literacy 1 and 2.'

The interpretations of Asia literacy suggested by Dr Fitzgerald and Dr Neustupny in Asia Literacy 1 challenge the dominance given to Asian language as the avenue to Asia literacy. It is unlikely that large numbers of students will ever attain the level of language competency implied in Asia Literacy 3.

Providing the curriculum opportunities for a select group to be educated or trained to this level of skill is a major challenge for schools. However, this problem should not be confused with the educational challenge of Asia Literacy 1 and 2, which involves educating all students for that intellectual preparedness described by Dr Fitzgerald.


Curriculum models for the study of Asia and its languages

In recent times, changing societal expectations have placed increasing demands on curriculum in Queensland schools. In an already overcrowded curriculum, the problem is one of including the various dimensions of Asia literacy in the most effective and productive manner.

Curriculum models for the study of Asia and its languages need to take into consideration issues such as:

what are the appropriate learning experiences and teaching strategies required to meet the objectives of Asia literacy?

how and where should studies of Asia and its languages be included?

The challenges for students and teachers include:

how can teachers help students achieve a state of intellectual preparedness (the ability to view ourselves, Asia and the world from a broader range of perspectives than simply a Western one)?

how is competency or `proficiency' in an Asian language or languages to be achieved?

In the following sections, a number of curriculum `models' for including studies of Asia and its languages are discussed in the context of the preceding issues and challenges.

Asian languages and Asian cultural studies

From the point of near extinction, the study of foreign languages has been resurrected as a matter of national and state priority, more urgent, more ambitious than ever before.

All State and Territory education departments have now given language policies a high priority. Within these policies, a major emphasis is placed on Asian languages. The Queensland Government has targeted Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and German as the principal languages `but other European languages would also have a place in the curriculum' (Minister for Education media release, 5 September 1990).


The Government's commitment to an Asian languages program is reflected in the number of initiatives which have already been implemented. These include

increased priority funding in the budget for language programs;

teacher exchanges between China and Queensland;

immersion courses in China for Queensland teachers;

immersion courses in Japan for classroom teachers studying the Graduate Diploma of Language Teaching (Japanese);

trial immersion programs in some schools; and

the development of technology-assisted learning programs.

Despite these initiatives, the greatest obstacle to achieving the aims of an Asian languages program in schools is the current shortage of Asian language teachers who are proficient in the language and suitably trained and skilled in language teaching methodology. At the national level, the Ingleson Report (1989) highlights the issues that need immediate attention if the required level of teacher expertise in schools is to be met. In Queensland, the Ingram Report further stresses that, of the target languages, Chinese and Indonesian/Malaysian will require `particular support in order to expand...(while) Japanese has grown so rapidly that there is a concern over the quality of many programs' (Ingram Report 1990, p. 38). These two Reports, and submissions from language teacher associations, recommend incentive schemes for teachers to upgrade skills or to retrain as language teachers.

There is little doubt about the current level of community interest in Asian languages. However, even assuming sustained interest and government support, the problem for schools remains one of resolving issues such as:

What factors should influence choice between Asian and European languages in the school curriculum?

Which Asian language(s) should be included?

What level of proficiency should schools be aiming at for students by the end of Year 12 and how realistic is this expectation?

What learning experiences will best promote such proficiency?


What role will `culture studies' play in the language program?

By what criteria will success of the Asian languages program be evaluated?

Perhaps one of the factors that should determine the choice of a foreign language should be the level of local community support for that language to be taught in the school. The presence of ethnic communities from which the school draws its students and on whom the school can depend for assistance in its language program should be a critical factor. The ability to speak a language is improved with constant use of that language. If students speak Italian at home and the local community is largely Italian with a marked absence of Asian peoples, it follows that a foreign language program utilising Italian is more likely to be successful than one based on an Asian language. This is not to say that the objectives of Asia Literacy 1 (Neustupny) cannot be accommodated elsewhere in the curriculum. They can and indeed should be.

Consultation with the total school community - students, parents, teachers and other people in the community with an interest in the welfare of students at the school, as well as educational authorities - should precede any decision pertaining to the introduction of foreign languages into the school curriculum.

To assist with decision making, the recommendations regarding language priorities and implementation strategies contained in the Ingram Report (1990, pp. 49 - 51) could be examined.

The question of proficiency levels is an interesting one. Traditional curriculum has usually identified what students know about a language. A proficiency-based curriculum identifies what students will be able to do with language. Whereas traditionally foreign language instruction has focused on knowing rules of grammar and vocabulary, proficiency emphasises knowing in action. This is facilitated by an understanding of the cultural context in which communication takes place, so that students both understand the intents of others and communicate their own with cultural appropriateness.


The Ingram Report (1990, pp. 64 - 65) refers to minimum proficiency levels in speaking, reading and writing in foreign languages which are required of teachers. The report implies that teachers' proficiency levels currently do not meet these expectations. Furthermore, the Ingleson Report acknowledges that under the present system of a three-year undergraduate degree, it is very difficult to achieve fluency in an Asian language. How realistic then are hopes for success for a proficiency-based language curriculum in schools?

The question remains unanswered as to how well and under what circumstances students are expected to be able to communicate, orally and in written form, in an Asian language. The P-10 Curriculum Framework (1987, p. 23) recommends that `by the end of Year 10, children should have studied a language other than English for a minimum period of two consecutive years and be able to use, appropriately and effectively, a language other than English in its spoken and written forms in a prescribed range of formal and informal contexts.' Translated into proficiency terms, these expectations appear to resemble those required of teachers. Research points to the acquisition of proficiency through constant use by living abroad, growing up in a home where the language is spoken, or learning the language in ethnic schools. Success at these proficiency levels will be limited to very few native English speaking students and to those students whose first language it was that they were learning at school.

Perhaps the issue of language proficiency for students needs to be reconsidered in more realistic terms. Australia needs linguists proficient in Asian languages, but the school is only one arena in which such skills are gained and which can at best establish the foundation for a life-long process. A more realistic objective for Asian language programs in schools would be for all students to reach the level of Asia Literacy 2 (Neustupny). Alternative arrangements for accelerated language studies should be available either within the school or externally for the very few who are capable of the language proficiency expected of Asia Literacy 3. Furthermore, unrealistic expectations of the vocational value of achieving language proficiency levels at Asia Literacy 3 need to be avoided.


It is recognised that culture studies are an integral part of language studies. But given the constraints of time, what proportion of class time will teachers devote to teaching language structure and vocabulary, oral/aural and written practice (without even considering the difficulties of ideographic scripts) and what time allowance will be devoted to `culture studies'? And will these `culture studies' meet the aims of Asia literacy or will the lack of time necessitate superficial treatment which reinforces stereotyped images of Asian peoples?

Courses in Asian studies

Not all students in Queensland schools will study an Asian language and yet if national priorities are to be achieved, they should all be exposed to aspects of studies of Asia. Hence learnings involving the cultural studies of Asia assume a quite critical importance.

`Asia' is currently taught in Queensland schools as case studies or topics in the context of traditional subject areas such as Social Studies, History, Geography and Economics, and to a lesser extent, Music, Art, Literature and Home Economics. One of the problems of the single subject approach is that students are normally exposed to Asia in a fragmented way which impedes understanding.

And, as is the case with elective subjects, not all students necessarily study these subjects in secondary school. To understand any Asian society, students must see how geography, history, politics, economics, religion and culture interact and influence each other. Asian studies in the curriculum needs to be designed in such a way that all students are exposed to these learnings.

The preceding argument is often used to favour a discrete Asian Studies course which is seen as easier than trying to include units of work in the traditional subject areas.

However, the arguments against the introduction of an Asian Studies subject are strong. These arguments relate to:

the curriculum clutter that already exists in schools;

lack of resources and teaching expertise to sustain such a course;


fear of Asian Studies becoming the `new parochialism'; and dangers of cultural exclusivity.

Increasing demands on curriculum have seen inroads made into the hours of a school day by new courses, all justifiable, ranging from Human Relationships Education to road safety and driver education. In an overcrowded curriculum, schools face the risk of spreading learning too thinly over too many areas.

Competing claims for relevance result in less time for each course of study. As teachers try to acquire new skills and new areas of knowledge to meet the demands of new courses, a natural response to any suggestion for an Asian Studies subject is likely to be negative. Findings of a research project into teacher reactions to curriculum change provide data on this problem. Teachers' reactions to new syllabus documents indicate that approximately half saw curriculum change as a worthwhile activity while the other half saw it as unnecessary extra work. Three-quarters of the teachers surveyed, however, viewed curriculum change as a task for which they were inadequately prepared (Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum 1991, p. 73).

Another problem implicit in the curriculum model of a discrete Asian Studies course is related to the exclusive treatment of Asia or indeed selected aspects of it. This is the danger that the old parochialism of the past, which tended to ignore Asia, may be replaced by a new parochialism which `focuses upon the economically successful areas of Asia to the considerable exclusion of much else.' (Mahony 1990, p. 9). The economic bias demonstrated by the status given to such documents as the Garnaut Report (1990) bends priorities towards studies of North Asia, South-East Asia and South Asia, in that order. Mahony contends that:

the (current) emphasis is not so much upon Asian studies as cultural studies or third world studies or conflict studies or imperialist studies, as in the past, but Asian studies as economic success (Mahony 1990, p. 5).

Studies of the economically successful in Asia contradict the objectives of Asia literacy. Indeed some of the currently economically less developed parts of Asia


were the birthplaces of major Asian belief systems. India, for example, should be studied for this reason alone. Moreover, exclusive studies of Asia contradict the aims of intellectual preparedness. Australia and Asia are part of a global community, and to concentrate on one geographic region to the exclusion of its links with other regions would be educationally unsound.

To insist that Asian studies be offered as an exclusive course, especially in a core curriculum, would be to invite criticism from non-Asian ethnic and Aboriginal communities in Australia. The same arguments against giving priority to the languages of Australia's trading partners in Asia are equally relevant to an emphasis on studies of Asia. Two factors need to be considered:

. the multicultural nature of Australian society; and

the internationalisation of Australia's economic and political affairs.

The Asian Studies Council in its report, A National Strategy for the Study of Asia in Australia (1988, p. 24), in fact recommends against the creation or continuation of an Asian studies subject.

An alternative model, preferred by the Asian Studies Council, suggests `infusing' studies of Asia into current curriculum offerings. Fitzgerald (1990, pp. 9 - 10) sees the humanities and social sciences as particularly suited for infusing Asian studies. According to the infusion model, Asian studies would be taught in traditional disciplines and subjects by way of topic selection and by comparative studies.

A persuasive argument for the infusion model is found in Fersh (1978) and is supported by Bahree (1987). Fersh argues that Asian studies:

can contribute to units on human development in culturally different social, political, economic, religious and aesthetic systems... Asian studies content can be used to achieve purposes in which Asia is not the subject but is the source from which other kinds of learning can occur (Fersh 1978, p. 2).


The emphasis is therefore on the kind of learning that should occur as a result of including studies of Asia across the curriculum, rather than the pursuit of data on Asia for its own sake. The value of the infusion approach is that Asian examples are given along with examples from other cultural contexts in order to achieve genuine understanding of the concepts being studied.

The curriculum implications of infusion require teachers to seriously consider issues such as:

What learning is to occur as a result of including Asian examples?

Which topic, theme, area or region of Asia would provide the most suitable means by which such learning could occur?

How do Asian examples complement or contrast with other cultural examples?

What skills can be built into the unit?

How will it fit in with the syllabus, if that is a constraint?

What kinds of resources are available?

What teaching approaches or learning situations would best achieve the desired learning outcomes?

How can a more holistic picture of the particular Asian people or culture be assured by coordinating work carried out in your subject with learning on the same culture that is occurring in other subjects?

Bahree (1987, p. 40) provides examples of an interdisciplinary approach and coordination that can occur between subject areas. Her ideas applied to Queensland school curricula could, for example, take the form of historical studies of the ancient civilisation of Mohenjo-daro founded on the Indo-Ganges River, geographical studies of farming and environmental impact in the Punjab, art studies of Hindu and Islamic building decorations, Indian foods and traditions in Home Economics, characteristics of sitar music and its contributions to contemporary music in music classes, and literary analysis of Indian classics and films set in India.

The infusion model, however, is not without its challenges. The teacher is the key to successful curriculum change. The objectives of and approach to studies


of Asia outlined in this paper represent a significant reorientation in teachers' thinking, in what and how they teach, especially in the secondary school. To infuse appropriate examples with a new approach requires a lot of planning and tremendous effort.

Critics of the infusion model argue that recommending infusion of new topics is another way of adding to an already overcrowded curriculum. This ought not to be the case since the teacher in restructuring his or her curriculum should abandon old content and adopt new material in order to achieve educational objectives.

Asian studies in a balanced curr iculum

Whatever curriculum model individual schools or teachers may choose in order to achieve improved levels of `Asia literacy', it is important that Asian studies be accorded a balanced emphasis along with other culture and language studies.

Asia and its languages are part of a whole which must embrace many other cultural studies. These should include Australian studies (which includes multicultural studies and Aboriginal and Islander studies), studies of Europe both in terms of its important cultural legacies and in terms of its recent quite profound changes, and studies which are global in their scope, to name but a few components of that whole. To do otherwise, and indeed to overemphasise Asia to the exclusion of these other studies, runs the danger of seeing Asian studies as the `new parochialism' (Mahony 1990, p. 6).

The great advantage of the infusion model is that Asian content can be used naturally and frequently along with the sorts of examples listed above to achieve the objectives of cultural studies. However, it is difficult to see how this balance across various curriculum areas and across the various year levels in primary and secondary schools can be achieved unless there is concerted consultation and whole school planning by teachers.


CURRICULUM PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION Whole school planning on Asian studies

Asian content currently features in various courses of study in Queensland schools, notably Social Studies, History and Geography. The decision to include Asian topics or Asian examples, however, has largely been left to the teacher.

The result is rather haphazard and piecemeal treatment of studies of Asia.

What the Asian Studies Council proposes is a more cohesive and comprehensive approach based on the infusion model, that will ensure all students are exposed to studies of Asia and, through such studies, become Asia literate (1988, p. 24).

This approach will require all subjects across the curriculum to consider ways in which Asian examples can be included in their learnings.

Curriculum change that challenges teachers' current teaching practice requires whole school planning if such change is to be implemented effectively.

The proposed approach to Asian studies requires teachers to change behaviour (their own and/or their students), the lesson content or the organisation of their classrooms, and the nature of teacher-pupil interaction. The change involves the teacher individually and as part of the whole school staff. Much thought and effort is needed to coordinate units of work to select the most appropriate examples, to avoid duplication of content and to provide a range of learning experiences for the students appropriate to their maturity levels.

Curriculum change processes are complex and problematical. If curriculum change in Asian studies is to be implemented successfully, certain issues need to be considered by both centralised educational agencies and teachers in the local school community:

How prescriptive should centralised or national guidelines be to ensure achievement of common objectives while maintaining some degree of teacher autonomy?


How can the essence of the curriculum change; its ethos, philosophy, goals and nature of the change be best communicated to teachers?

How can teachers be convinced of the value of change?

Is it feasible to infuse Asian studies across all subjects or should selected

`core' subjects be the vehicle for studies of Asia?

What processes are needed to facilitate interaction and negotiation between teachers and coordination of work across different subject areas?

How can primary and secondary school teachers liaise in a way that provides coherence in studies of Asia and achievement of the stated objectives of Asia literacy, during the compulsory years of schooling?

How can teacher skills and knowledge required in the change be ensured?

What kinds of support are needed to help teachers select content, skills and strategies to achieve the stated purposes of study?

What provisions should there be for ongoing evaluation of the curriculum change? How will the extent and appropriateness of changed behaviours be evaluated?

For teachers to implement change successfully, the intent of the change and the implementation process accompanying it must be regarded as both desirable and possible by teachers. In the final analysis, the most enduring effects of educational change are felt in the improvement of ways in which something is taught. For these improvements to occur, teachers need to have a clear conception of the educational objectives.

Establishing appropriate objectives for Asian studies

Two types of objectives for the study of Asia and its languages can currently be identified in the literature.

The first is a group of national objectives which relates to ensuring future generations of Australians are more `Asia literate' than present and past generations. The National Strategy is, of course, quite explicit and detailed in this respect, with 25 objectives being stated. For example, objective 9 indicates that the study of Asia should be such that:


Asian content is an element in all appropriate subjects in all years of education from the beginning of primary to the end of tertiary education by 1995 (National Strategy 1988, p. 4).

This statement clearly indicates the extent to which the objectives of the National Strategy are committed to the infusion model. Systemic objectives also occur in the supporting literature with Stephen Fitzgerald's following assertion being significant.

But all Australians should be familiar with the history, geography, economics and politics of the region in which they live, and it is the study of Asia through these and other disciplines which will provide that (Fitzgerald 1990, p. 23).

The second set of objectives relate to why Asian studies ought to be given increased priority and the sorts of educational objectives which will lead to quality outcomes for students. In general terms, writers on these objectives see attitudinal and process objectives as being more significant than content objectives. (Given the difficulty of defining `Asia' and of choosing regions or themes on Asia to include in the curriculum, this is perhaps a fortunate set of priorities for objectives.)

Viviani has provided a useful classification for this second set of objectives (Viviani 1990, p. 4). She indicates there are three principal reasons why we should teach Asian studies in schools, and these in summary are as follows: .

The first is intellectual - if teaching Asian studies raises awkward questions about ourselves and others, then it can advance our critical understanding. This objective is in keeping with Fersh's assertion that students should be `learning from as well as about Asia' (Fersh 1978, Preface).

The second reason is philosophical - there are many important ideas and we've mostly only had access to the Western constructions of these ideas.

This correlates well with Fitzgerald's concept of `Asia literacy' as intellectual preparedness.

The third reason is utilitarian - we will never prosper as we should unless


we are able to operate competently in Asian countries, and more, it will be worse for us if we do not gain the knowledge that we need to do well in our trade and diplomacy in Asia. This objective is given high priority with respect to north-east Asia in the recommendations of the Garnaut Report.

Fersh asserts that our objectives for Asian studies ought to vary according to the age and maturity level of the learner (Fersh 1978, pp. 9 - 10). He claims that in primary school the major emphasis should be on `the student as the subject', by which he means all subject matter is arranged to achieve behaviourial changes in the learner. To achieve this, teachers need to select aspects of human life in Asia with which young children can identify and through which the children are encouraged to see both the similarities with their own way of life as well as the differences. In the lower secondary school years, Fersh considers that Asian studies should progress to a situation where `the process is the subject'. By this he means that objectives should be geared to thinking processes where the main educational purpose is to help students understand and appreciate the culture concept, including the ways in which culture functions as a whole. Important in this process is the development in students of the ability to see interrelationships between different aspects of a culture. To achieve this he favours a regional or case study country approach, using an integration of the various disciplines.

Fersh considers that it is only in the post-compulsory years of secondary schooling and in tertiary institutions where `the content is the subject' needs to be the primary objective in Asian studies courses. Such courses usually have a particular disciplinary focus, involve detailed study of some part or aspect of Asia and enable students to structure their studies into particular specialisations or concentrations.

The interdependence of Australian studies and Asian studies

Reference has been made earlier in this monograph for the need to see Asian studies as a subset of the broader culture studies and language studies debate and the need to achieve a balanced curriculum in these studies. More specifically, in curriculum planning for Asian studies, the close interdependence between Australian studies and Asian studies needs to be acknowledged.


This interrelationship is highlighted in the report Asia in Australian Higher Education, which states:

Asian studies is the obverse side of the coin to Australian studies. It is vital in teaching about Asia and its languages (that) we constantly seek ways of relating this to our own society (Ingleson 1989, p. 33).

The need to see Australian and Asian studies as part of an organic whole involves the following considerations. Initially, children need to be equipped with the skills to analyse culture and society. Especially with young children these skills need to be developed in the concrete world of the known. Hence, Australian studies need to be used as the precursor to studies of other cultures.

With older students, there is a need to look critically at and to theorise about one's own culture in order to develop the skills to use these methods of analysis for other cultures. At the level of course development, Viviani makes the point that we can only decide `Why, What and How' to teach about Asia once we have debated questions such as `What is it to be an Australian?' and `What is Australia's place in the world?' (Viviani 1990). Moreover, geographical realities and recent Australian immigration and economic policies mean that students need to consider both the issues of `Australia in Asia' and `Asia in Australia'.

Through themes such as these as well as through cultural studies of an even broader geographical scope, students should be brought to an awareness that a study of cultural differences throughout the world can lead to an understanding and appreciation of ethnic differences within Australia. Indeed, when accounting for the failure of the earlier Asian studies movement, Fitzgerald observes that `because it was not Asia in our studies but Asian Studies, it is not surprising that other concerns simply crowded Asian Studies out' (Fitzgerald 1990, p. 6). We cannot afford to allow this marginalisation of Asian studies to occur again.



To this point the monograph has raised some of the main issues pertinent to effective curriculum development in the area of Asian studies. However, the reality is that no matter how these curriculum issues are resolved at the state level or by the process of school based curriculum development, the ultimate success or failure of this curriculum occurs at the level of classroom implementation by individual teachers. The remainder of the monograph analyses some of the main challenges teachers will face at the level of classroom practice.

Classroom challenges in studies of other cultures

A teacher may have a good understanding and knowledge of Asian cultures and have a clear understanding of the sorts of objectives which she/he wishes to achieve in the classroom, but at the same time fail to achieve the desired learning outcomes with students. This is due partly because of the enormous challenges teachers face in teaching in an area where attitudinal objectives are so important, and also because some quite widely used teaching strategies can actually be counterproductive to achieving appropriate objectives. The challenge of attitudinal objectives is of quite critical importance, given that most teachers will be striving to achieve Neustupny's `Asia Literacy 1' with their students, and it is at this level that `wide understanding of Asian societies and cultures' is the primary objective (Neustupny 1989).

Fersh highlights one facet of the challenge of attitudinal objectives for teachers when he asserts `... it takes more time to change attitudes than to learn facts' (Fersh 1978, p. 14). Moreover, since attitudes are mainly developed during the early formative years of life, including the first few years of formal schooling, Fersh proceeds by recommending `the student as the subject' approach mentioned earlier, for the primary school.

However, irrespective of the age of the learner, the teacher will be confronted with a cultural attitudinal barrier known as ethnocentrism. This tendency to


view one's own way of life as `natural', `good' and hence in most ways superior to the ways of life of people in all other cultures is endemic to virtually all humans. Initially, students need to be made aware of this unconscious assumption that they are making, and then need to be encouraged to use this insight to utilise greater humility in their own assessments of other peoples and cultures.

Once learners have become aware of their own `cultural conditioning' and how this leads to ethnocentrism, it is then time to address the issue of `cultural context' (Fersh 1978). For example, new information on Asia is likely to be perceived within the context of one's own culture and, despite the immense challenges, the learner as `outsider' needs to strive to understand the cultural context in which the `insider' carries this information in her/his head as

`common sense'. Australian children, for example, often learn factual information about India, such as `the cow is a sacred animal to many Indians' or `many Indians have large families', without further learning why these are perfectly logical practices from an Indian perspective (Fersh 1978, p. 50). The learning of an Asian language has great potential to assist in this area of cultural context, as language structures and vocabulary are integral to the cultural context of any society. However, despite the current expansion of second language learning in Queensland schools, not all students will be studying an Asian language.

One of the greatest perils that the teacher faces in the classroom study of Asian cultures is that of reinforcing stereotypes of those cultures. This problem emerges from the perceived need to generalise about other groups of people in order to somehow make the study of them `manageable'. For example, the reader may need to consider the extent to which the two statements regarding India in the previous paragraph are themselves stereotypes. This problem is compounded for teachers by the fact that many existing resources often contain misleading and inaccurate stereotypes. Moreover, stereotypical images of Asia are pervasive in the Australian population at large, and these images are subject to change over time. On this matter, Viviani considers we need to reconstruct our image of Asia. She observes:


that powerful past image of Asia as poor, military threatening and exotic has been replaced by a new, just as simple yet ambivalent image of Asia as rich (and also poor). An Asia also economically threatening and beckoning us simultaneously with economic opportunities; and still exotic (Viviani 1990, p. 2).

Stereotypical images of Asia are, unfortunately, often reinforced by the teacher using a `problem' approach to its study. Typical approaches here may include viewing Asia as having `problems of underdevelopment', or `problems of overpopulation' or `political problems'. The dangers in the overuse of this approach are twofold. Firstly, this perspective may deny the cultural context in which the Asian people themselves may not see these issues as `problems' at all;

secondly, students may be exposed to Asia only as a problem and be left with very little understanding of the people being studied (Bahree 1987, pp. 34 - 35).

Fersh warns that this problem approach to Asia often assumes that Western civilisation has or can provide the solution, with terms like `discovered' or

`opened up' often being used to describe occidental contact with the orient (Fersh 1978, pp. 4 - 5).

Another approach often used in the classroom which has the potential to reinforce stereotype occurs when only the very visible and exotic aspects of an Asian culture are focused on. Popular topics in this regard include the food, clothing, festivals, art, music and architecture of a particular culture. A common teaching strategy here is to conduct days on which aspects of particular culture are displayed or perhaps simulated. Students often derive enjoyment from such activities. It is often claimed that this is a good way to interest young learners in another culture and the value of the activity is certainly enhanced if members of the other culture can be involved directly in the activities. On the other hand, if these activities represent the only exposure students have to the other culture, there is a tendency to emphasise knowledge rather than understanding of, and empathy with, that culture. Also, in using this approach differences between cultures are likely to be overemphasised at the expense of seeking out commonalities between Australian and various Asian societies. Furthermore, emphasis on the exotic in a culture can excessively `romanticise' that culture and


thus not lead students to a critical analysis of both the strengths and weaknesses of that society and culture.

In discussion of the above challenges and perils of Asian cultural studies, the extent to which such factors as shortages of time, inadequacies of resources and limitations in teacher pre-service and in-service contribute to such practices should be acknowledged.

The need for appropriate resources

Although the situation is improving, Asian studies is not currently well served by resources appropriate to the objectives and approaches discussed in this monograph.

One aspect of the problem of resources is that, given the quite dynamic change which is occurring in many Asian countries, it can be extremely difficult to gain access to recent, up to date print and audio-visual materials. This pace of change would seem to make it imperative for teachers to access information through newspapers, periodicals, journal articles and television. But even this may not be enough, as many of these sources of information provide information on Asia from a Western perspective irrespective of how recent the information may be. Teachers may well need to search for resources which provide a balance of both Asian and Western perspectives, or alternatively develop strategies such as extension questions to use with existing resources which place students in a position where they need to attempt to develop the `insider's view' of what is being studied. Strategies which may assist in this regard include making pen-friend and sister school contacts with people in Asian countries, establishing links with cultural groups and Australian groups of Asian immigrants and, where this is financially feasible, arranging trips to, or student and teacher exchanges, with Asian countries.

The need for teacher pre-service and in-service

It is quite obvious that teacher training and in-service will need major emphasis in the forthcoming decade if the national and state objectives for the priority areas of Asian studies and Asian languages are to be achieved.


With the limited exception of those teachers who have done major cultural and/or language studies of Asia, or who themselves are of Asian origin, or who have travelled extensively or lived for some time in Asia, most teachers feel ill at ease about their own capacities to increase the amount of Asian content that they include in their courses. This is hardly surprising given the existing limited scope of Asian studies at all levels of the Australian education system, as documented in the National Strategy and in the Ingleson Report. Moreover, even `Asia literate' teachers are subject to all the challenges, complexities and perils of exposing students to studies of other cultures identified earlier in this monograph. Regrettably, some teachers' perceptions of Asia may have been formed largely as a result of the increasing presence of Asian people and investment in Australia, and these attitudes and perceptions may be mainly negative.

Hence, if the scope and effectiveness of Asian studies in our schools are to be improved, a commensurate improvement in the preparation of teachers to carry out this task ought also to occur. Courses for teachers need to be relevant to their needs and should not only include content courses on Asia but also, for example, courses on racism and stereotypes, which can help teachers to evaluate their own attitudes and to promote guidance on how such subjects should be treated in the classroom (Bahree 1986, p. 33). Finally, as the Ingleson Report suggests, teachers should be provided with positive incentives to improve their skills in the teaching of Asia and its languages, such as the funded opportunity to undertake relevant educational programs in Asian countries. In a modest way this initiative has already been established for some teachers of Asian languages.

The extension of such schemes to all teachers involved in Asian studies, along with a whole range of Australian based enhanced teacher education programs will be necessary if the National Strategy is to achieve its targets for the 1990s.



National priorities for the study of Asia and its languages appear to have been determined. As in most cases of curriculum change, however, the rhetoric tends to cloud the real issues. Successful curriculum change ultimately rests with the teacher in the context of classroom interactions. Some questions need to be given serious consideration by both centralised agencies and local school communities if initiatives at the national level are to be effectively implemented and achieve the desired outcomes:

. What is the rationale for the inclusion of studies of Asia and its languages in the school curriculum?

. What ought to be the appropriate balance and inter-relationships between Asian language study and Asian cultural studies?

. How can coordinated school-based curriculum development in Asian studies, based on the infusion model, be developed in primary and secondary schools, and between primary and secondary schools? What might be the role of the new school support centres?

. How can appropriate objectives be clearly identified, enunciated and embraced by all those involved in achieving them at the `chalk face'?

. Are these objectives realistic given the constraints of time, financial, human and material resources?

. What needs to be done, and by whom, to ensure successful implementation in the classroom and attainment of stated objectives?

Worthwhile educational goals and the best intentions of decision-makers outside the classroom in themselves cannot guarantee the success of any curriculum innovation. The chances of success, however, may be enhanced by dialogue between stake-holders, in particular teachers, students and parents.

Furthermore, giving priority to Asian studies in system and school budgets is necessary so that the objectives raised in this monograph can be achieved.



Asian Studies Council 1988, A National Strategy for the Study of Asia in Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Bahree, P. 1987, `Teaching About Asia', Western European Education, vol. 18, no 4, p. 31-59.

Department of Education, Queensland 1990, Draft Literacy Strategy Plan, Brisbane.

Department of Education, Queensland 1987, The P-10 Curriculum Framework, Brisbane.

Fersh, S. 1978, Asia - Teaching About/Leaming From, Teachers College Press, New York.

Fitzgerald, S. 1990, Asia, Education and the Australian Mind, Occasional Paper no. 15, The Australian College of Education, Canberra.

Garnaut, R. 1990, Australia and the North East Asian Ascendancy, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Ingleson, J. 1989, Asia in Australian Higher Education, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Ingram, D. 1990, The Teaching of Languages and Cultures in Queensland, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Languages, Nathan, Queensland.

Lo Bianco, J. 1987, National Policy on Languages, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.


Mahony, D. 1990, Asian Studies and Social Education: Old and New Imperatives, Paper presented to the Social Education Association of Australia Conference, Melbourne.

Minister for Education, Media Release 5 September 1990.

Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum 1991, From Policy to Practice - Springboards to Change, commissioned research report, University College of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba.

Neustupny, J. 1989, `Talking with our neighbours', The Australian, 2 August, p. 17.

Viviani, N. 1990, Asian Studies for Australian Schools - The Critical Questions:

Why, What, How?, Paper presented to the Asian Studies in Schools Conference, Asian Studies Council, Melbourne.


Publications in the Issues in Education Series

1. The Standards Debate: Some Basic Questions and Issues, J.E. Ford, 1990.

2. Towards a Simple Profile: Making Sense of Student Achievement, M. Middleton, 1990.

3. Are There New Basics? Essential Learning for Contemporary School, J.E. Ford, 1990.

Other Council Publications Reports to Parliament:

Report 1, August 1989.

Report 2, Consultation: Towards the Development of Guiding Principles and Practices, May 1990.

1989 Annual Report.

1990 Annual Report.

Any enquiries relating to the work of the Council or about the issues raised in this paper should be addressed to:

The Executive Officer

Ministerial Consultative Council on Curriculum Room 102, 1st Floor

Prudential Building

Cnr Queen Street and North Quay Brisbane

PO Box 405

NORTH QUAY Q 4002 Tel. (07) 224 7652

Fax. (07) 221 0564



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