Supporting Asia literacy at region, state and national levels
Scroll down or click for perspectives from Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Victoria, Education Services Australia and video and audio recordings of the three speeches.
Bridges to Understanding
Professor Michael Singh, Director of International Studies, Centre for Educational Research, University of Western Sydney and Cheryl Ballantyne, School Development Officer, NSW Department of Education and Communities, Western Sydney Region
The Western Sydney Region, in partnership with the University of Western Sydney and working closely with schools and Ningbo and Huangpu Education Bureaus in China, has established and maintains the Bridges to Understanding project. This project aims to promote and support the teaching of Chinese language and culture in schools. This involves collaboration, research, consistency of pedagogical approaches and connections with the Australian curriculum.
A key component of the project is a volunteer teacher-research program which enables graduates from Ningbo to participate in a Master of Education Honours program. They are actively engaged in schools as volunteers to teach Mandarin and to support schools’ Mandarin programs.
Eleven schools have partnered with sister schools in China and collaborative learning projects are now developing through digital technologies. An annual cultural exchange program was established in 2008 and two concerts will be held in China in 2011.
Evaluation data indicate an increase in the number of students learning Chinese in schools and attitudinal survey data indicate their positive response to Chinese language and culture learning. It is hoped that through a partnership with the Confucius Institute, students will continue their studies of Chinese to year 12.
Chris Wardlaw, Deputy Secretary, Office of Policy, Research and Innovation, DEECD, Victoria
Chris explained that in Victoria priority has been placed on Asia literacy. Chris highlighted three major focus areas for expending the agenda; Languages learning, Multicultural and global citizenship and Internationalisation.
He noted that Victoria has a strong commitment to languages education and aims to create one of the world’s most diverse and effective programs. He indicated that attempts to enhance language provision have not so far been successful and that we need now to be working on the demand side. We need, for example, to recognize the fact that general literacy capabilities can be enhanced through language learning, which has intrinsic benefits as well as wider community benefits.
More Asia literate schools also increase demand as do in-country experience program such as study tours, because it has been shown that teachers and principals come back committed to internationalising their schools.
As well, partnerships with tertiary institutions here and overseas increase demand for languages, and the establishment a Chinese Teacher Training Centre is current example.
Analysis has revealed that few teachers qualified to teach languages are actually teaching them. This is an untapped reservoir of talent, not a shortage.
Chris noted the success of the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia Program to build Asia literate schools in Victoria.
He stressed the importance of ‘learning with’ Asia. There are high performing school systems in the region, and we have much to learn from them.
Susan Mann, Chief Executive Officer, Education Services Australia
Susan provided more detail about the National Digital Learning Resources Network which enables access by schools to a range of digital resources, of which many support Asian languages and culture and Australia's engagement with Asia. Importantly, she noted that all of these have been copyright cleared and are thus freely available to schools, teachers and students.
Through a close relationship with the AEF and through the NALSSP program, Asian studies and languages resources are becoming increasingly available.
Susan went on to outline several NALSSP funded projects. Through ‘We Link’, for example, work is being undertaken to support the use of videoconferencing in Asia language teaching. This project will connect teachers, classrooms, institutions and providers across jurisdictions and national boundaries.
A further NALSSP funded project, ‘Australian Curriculum Connect’ is drawing on the work of recipients of previous NALSSP Grants to identify resources which support the teaching of languages and cross curriculum perspectives. These will be tagged to the Australian Curriculum.
Watch and listen
Learning with Asia
'The message...of the importance of languages is being lost out in school land.' - Chris Wardlaw, DEECD Victoria
Bridges to understanding
'Partnerships are right there at the core between the region and the university.' - Cheryl Ballantyne