Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teaching Asia to Australia: It’s Not Just About Languages

Asia - Satellite image - PlanetObserver
Asia - Satellite image (PlanetObserver)
by Dr Susan Leong, Lecturer in Media and Communication at Queensland University of Technology,
and Dr Catherine Gomes, Lecturer in Asian Studies and Communication Studies at RMIT University, The Conversation: http://theconversation.edu.au

Ahead of the soon-to-be-released Asian Century White Paper, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has said Australia needs to “know Asia” in order to prosper.

Delivering a speech to the Asia Society on behalf of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in New York he argued that “we’ll need Asia-literate policies and Asia-capable people”.

Ken Henry, who heads the Asian century taskforce, has also argued that Australians should, from their earliest years, acquire the cultural and linguistic literacy to “operate more effectively in an Asian-centred world”.

So how do we prepare Australians who attend universities today for this new world?

A large decline in the uptake of Asian language courses has prompted some experts and public figures to argue for a greater emphasis on studying languages. Without a fluent population they argue, we can’t reach Australia’s full potential in the Asian century.

But while learning a foreign language undoubtedly improves one’s cultural awareness, it represents only one part of the puzzle. What we need is to incorporate Asia into curricula more broadly, not just compartmentalise it into separate areas of study.

More than Asian Languages

Despite its proximity, Asia is a foreign continent to most Australian tertiary students. Its cuisine may be regularly sampled, its people part of everyday life and its exports a fact of life, but Asia as a natural avenue for our aspirations is an alien concept.

We don’t advocate that Australia emulates the Asian style of education, dominated by rote learning, especially in maths, science and reading. As Education expert Stephen Dinham argues, this approach does not necessarily translate to greater innovation and creativity.

But universities can play a greater role in helping Australians feel comfortable with our place in and relationship to Asia.

To read further, go to: http://theconversation.edu.au/teaching-asia-to-australia-its-not-just-about-languages-9724?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%2028%20September%202012&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%2028%20September%202012+CID_520d73d31187ad369db5fe46f1f171e6&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Teaching%20Asia%20to%20Australia%20its%20not%20just%20about%20languages
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