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Intercultural understanding

The Australian Curriculum identifies intercultural understanding as a general capability that all students should develop. It aims to enhance skills in three areas:

  • Recognising culture and developing respect
  • Interacting and empathising with others
  • Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility.

Students develop intercultural understanding through the study of the English language and the ways it has been influenced by different cultural groups, languages, speakers and writers. In interpreting and analysing authors’ ideas and positions in a range of texts in English and in translation to English, they learn to question stated and unstated cultural beliefs and assumptions, and issues of intercultural meaning.
Students use Intercultural understanding to comprehend and create a range of texts, that present diverse cultural perspectives and to empathise with a variety of people and characters in various cultural settings.

From the Australian Curriculum: English: General capabilities

Content which can assist with intercultural understanding is identified – and therefore searchable – in the Australian Curriculum: English 

The Intercultural understanding learning continuum shows how students are expected to progress with respect to the organising elements. There are six levels corresponding to Foundation, Year 2, Year 4, Year 6, Year 8 and Year 10.   

The following table expands on aspects of intercultural understanding and identifies examples (at Years 7–8 and 9–10) of how this capability can be developed within the English curriculum. 

Level 5 – Years 7/8
Level 6 – Years 9/10

Recognising culture and developing respect

Level Investigate culture and cultural identity Explore and compare cultural knowledge, beliefs and practices Develop respect for cultural diversity
5 Investigating the effects of time, re-location and changing ideas on cultural identity, as in Yr 8 Malaysian Contemporary Short Stories or Kampung Boy by Lat
Analysing the dynamic nature of cultural knowledge, beliefs and practices in a range of personal, social and historical contexts, as in Margaret Mead: Human nature and the power of culture exhibition 
Upholding the dignity and rights of others when participating in international on-line networks, as in Stories that Change Lives, Topic 5, Stories told by Manga, Cosplay and Anime
6 Investigating the concept of multiple identities, and opportunities to operate across cultural boundaries, as in Japan Diary
Exploring the complexities of traditional and contemporary cultures in a range of real and virtual settings, as in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (DVD) Part 1,The Power of Literature, or The Cup (DVD)
Exploring the ways that context has shaped the representation of particular cultures, as in Not One Less (film), or Unpolished Gem (memoir)

Interacting and empathising with others

Level Communicate across cultures
Consider and develop multiple perspectives
Empathise with others

Understanding how culture influences what people do or do not say to express cultural values, such as politeness, as in Diverted to Delhi (Screen Asia), or as in Indonesian Poetry and Translation learning sequence

Exploring factors that cause people to hold different perspectives, as in The River and Stories that Change Lives, Topic 5, Stories told by Manga, Cosplay and Anime
Describing the possible feelings and emotions of people facing adversity, natural disasters or conflict, as in 1000 Pencils project: From Kinglake to Kabul (Allen & Unwin, 2011)
6 Engaging with texts to gain insight into the way culture shapes perspective, as in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress and how our experiences and memories define us
Presenting multiple perspectives on complex social, environmental or economic issues, as in Not One Less  (film), or Unpolished Gem (memoir)
Imagining and reflecting on the impact their words and actions have on others, as in Kapil Dev grants Indian Migrant's last wish, or as in Dust of Uruzgan (musical performance)

Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility

Level Reflect on intercultural experiences
Challenge stereotypes and prejudices
Mediate cultural difference
5 Examining their responses to instances of cultural stereotyping, as in Diverted to Delhi (Screen Asia)
Analysing the media representation of Australia’s relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region over time, as in Stories that Change Lives Topic 1, Visual Texts. Use media photos & cartoons
Engaging with views they know to be different from their own to challenge their own thinking, as in Stories that Change Lives Topic 3, Footbinding compared to tattooing
6 Describing how exposure to a diversity of views, ideas or experiences has or has not changed their thinking on an issue, as in The Angry Kettle (short story available on subscription to Ozlit) 
Assessing the use of stereotypes in the portrayal of cultural minorities in national conflicts, as in Indochine (film trailer)
Balancing the representation and defence of their ideas and perspectives with those of others in a range of social forums, as in A Glimpse of Java through the Window, Asialink’s Island to Island Project, 2014

Illustrations of practice

Watch the video of Jane McGennisken, English and History teacher at St Mary's College, Hobart, talking about teaching the Asia priority through the novel Chinese Cinderella.


The Intercultural understanding toolkit supports how to improve capacity for intercultural understanding, how it is addressed across all learning areas and examples of activities that can be used in schools.


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