In Australia, the Asia Education Foundation has recently submitted a proposal to the government calling for whole-nation support for ‘Asia capabilities’ in schools.
The Foundation – which works in conjunction with Asialink and The University of Melbourne, says that while the support of Asian languages education in schools is important, there is a greater need for overall support. This extends to what is identified as ‘Asia capabilities’ in Australia’s entire school system, encompassing language, culture, research , curriculum support and toolkits, youth programs and parent resources.
There is a push for national coordination in hopes of achieving this, aiming for support from the education workforce at large – not just Asian language teachers. An additional goal is to build the demand for Asian language teaching and learning in all communities – beyond those with Asian heritage, and The Foundation offers curriculum support in Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
Speaking to The Educator, Chris Higgins, Director of Education at the Asia Education Foundation, said “Given Australia’s diverse and multicultural society and our place in the Asia-Pacific region, Asia capability in education is of paramount importance,” –
“As our classrooms become more diverse, and we become more connected to the world, it is essential that our students and teachers develop an understanding of the region in which we are physically and geographically a part of.”
Higgins noted that the Australian Curriculum “recognises this diversity and promotes opportunities for all students to succeed.”, adding “Intercultural Understanding and Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia are crucial components of the Australian Curriculum, but they are often perceived as add-ons rather than integral parts of the curriculum.”
According to data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) from 2021, just 10% of Year 12 students opted to study a language in 2019 school year. While Chinese and Japanese were the most popular choices within the 10%, they represented a small percentage of students compared with English, mathematics and humanities subjects.
Higgins added that to boost a demand for Asian language learning, its benefits must be identified across all subjects and contexts.
“It is crucial to integrate studies of Asia and support the Australian Curriculum Cross-curriculum Priority of ‘Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia’ in all schools and all subject disciplines.”
He also explained that a lack of awareness and resources for Asian language subjects may have steered educators in alternate directions when building curricula and hopes this will soon change.