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Intercultural education framework for Asia capability

What Works 3: Achieving intercultural understanding in English and History provides a framework/continuum that teachers can use when planning their curriculum. 

This framework (adapted from Banks, 1999) can be used as a tool to explore what is required to support transformative intercultural learning.

Contributions Additive  Transformation Social action

Teachers incorporate relevant content from different cultures into their teaching, e.g. by selecting books and activities that celebrate holidays, heroes, and special events from various cultures.

Culturally diverse books and issues are not generally a feature of the curriculum. Students' cultural literacy depends largely on their teachers' interests in intercultural understanding.


Teachers use resources by and about people from diverse cultures to add multicultural content, concepts, themes and perspectives to the curriculum.

But because the basic structure of the curriculum has not been altered to promote critical and creative thinking about cultural differences, this approach, though knowledge building, does not necessarily transform thinking. 

 The structure of the curriculum is designed to encourage students to view common concepts, issues, themes, and problems from diverse cultural perspectives. This type of instruction involves critical thinking and the acknowledgment of diversity as a basic premise.

It allows students to appreciate multiple ways of seeing and understanding, develop empathy for various points of view, and learn how to manage difference in the process.

This approach combines the transformation approach with learning activities that advocate social change. Teachers help students not only to understand and question social issues, but to also do something important to address them.

For example, after studying a unit about immigration, students could write opinion pieces to newspaper editors, letters to government officials, etc.

Grey Right arrow

Catalytic (first-steps) Transformative Action-oriented

Illustrations of practice

Explore the following iIllustrations of practice from What Works 3 Achieving intercultural understanding in English and History to see what action schools are taking to plan for intercultural learning.

The placing of these illustrations along a continuum is intended to show what is working in schools and what is possible for them to achieve depending on their particular context. Schools are invariably unique and at different starting points for Asia capability. In this sense, the continuum is not meant to be discriminatory, rather, illustrative of the Asia and intercultural education landscape in Australian schools. 

Contributions What was done Why 'Contributions'?

Morley Senior High School (WA)

  • Modern Japanese History taught at Year 11 (linked to the Australian Curriculum)
  • Australia and its multicultural society taught in Year 12 (linked to the Australian Curriculum)
  • Strengthened Asia learning progression from Year 8 onwards, identifying opportunities for Asian History within the Australian Curriculum
  • Developed a Year 8 unit on Shogunate Japan, using textbooks published to support the teaching of the Australian Curriculum: History as key references

Adding Asia content to the curriculum, or identifying opportunities to embed such content, is a first step. It is a teacher-friendly way to move towards a more culturally inclusive curriculum.

However, the basic structure of the curriculum has not been modified to promote critical thinking about cultural interaction, self-reflexivity, perspective taking, empathy and action. Relying on textbooks means that authentic and culturally diverse sources are not generally a feature of the taught curriculum. This could lead to discrete 'culture projects' that reinforce stereotypes or ethno-centric views of the world.

Additive What was done Why 'Additive”?

Asquith Girls' High School (NSW)

  • Identified need to teach more about Asian Ancient and move away from the more Eurocentric studies
  • Year 7s and Year 8s studied Ancient China in their History class, increasing students' knowledge of Chinese civilisation
  • Drew links with students of Chinese background at the school
  • Purchased resources, e.g. Ancient Chinese costumes and mahjong sets

One clear difference with the Contributions approach is the attempt to use more authentic resources and perspectives.

Although it builds on the Contributions approach, cultural content is still being added to the curriculum without changing its basic structure, purposes and characteristics. Examples include adding a text, lesson sequence or unit on particular cultures, using resources from these cultures.

Adding cultural content and authentic perspectives and resources can be a good starting point for schools. But they need to recognise that this approach can lead to selective cultural awareness and reinforce ethnocentricity, rather than foster genuine intercultural understanding. This is because the curriculum structure has not been sufficiently modified to promote critical thinking about cultural interaction, self-reflexivity, perspective taking, empathy and action.





Boambee Public School (NSW)

  • Identified opportunities to incorporate Asia content and perspectives in the English curriculum. For example, students completed an 'Asian flavours' unit in Years 3-4, using factual information to construct an information report. They also used traditional fables during writing lessons, allowing them to explore interpersonal relationships and ethical dilemmas in real-world and fantasy settings.
  • Planned for inclusion of studies of Asia in all KLAs and identified links with relevant syllabus outcomes

Greenwood Primary School (WA)

  • Integrated cross-curriculum studies of Asia in all K-7 classrooms
  • Students showcase their Asia capabilities during whole-school cultural days, classroom assemblies and open nights
  • Procured Asia-relevant library resources and professional learning
  • Students experienced incursions and excursions, e.g. they went to the Chung Wah Association in Perth to gain a better understanding of Chinese migrants in WA

Pedare Christian College (SA)

  • Rejuvenated curriculum and pedagogy with a focus on embedding Asia perspectives in Years 7-10 English and Humanities
  • Developed and taught a unit on China in Year 10, i.e. an English unit of work on 'The Struggle for Freedom: Mao's Last Dancer', with students exploring the cultural, economic and political context in their text analysis

St Philip Neri Catholic Primary School (NSW)

  • Developed scope and sequence of where Asia perspectives could be embedded meaningfully in all KLAs
  • Worked with the teacher librarian to purchase teaching and learning resources, especially authentic Asia-specific literature in English
  • Engaged an Asian author-illustrator to discuss how he promotes Asian perspectives in his work
Transformation What was done Why 'Transformation'?

Mount Waverley Secondary College (VIC)

Developed a Year 8 CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) unit in Japanese on the European Renaissance, as an alternative to more Eurocentric approaches in History. Objectives included:

  • To promote creative and critical thinking about the Renaissance from a non-European perspective
  • To develop students' higher-order historical inquiry skills
  • To develop students' intercultural competencies, largely through bilingual language use and bridging the gaps between historical worldviews and paradigms
  • To develop students' Japanese language abilities
  • To add authenticity to student learning
  • To compare societies through studies of the past

Getting students to view common concepts, issues and themes from several cultural perspectives is core to the Transformation approach. In both cases, the schools have substantially modified their curriculum structures to enable students to critically understand how societies constitute a complex web of cultural interactions.

The Transformation approach is further reinforced by the use of authentic resources that showcase a range of voices. This helps facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and conversations.

Students can explore other worldviews whilst reflecting on their own background and identities. They develop empathy in the process.

The intended outcome is a student who understands there are many ways of seeing the world, and who possesses the skills, behaviours and dispositions to navigate the possibilities, challenges and implications of intercultural relations.

Overnewton Anglican Community College (VIC)

  • Provided students with a range of literature from other countries, nationalities and cultures to enable them to reflect on their own values and beliefs
  • Developed Prep-Year 4 inquiry units, utilising common themes, but from multiple perspectives, to enable students to compare cultural backgrounds and discuss historical and contemporary knowledge
  • Requires intercultural learning to be a normal part of teaching and learning
Social Action What was done Why 'Social Action'?

Banksia International High School (SA)

  • Developed a project on facilitating the engagement of international students at the school, as part of the Year 11 Stage 1 English Communications and Intercultural Understandings unit in SACE
  • For their oral presentation component, students conducted interviews with international students at the school to supplement their literature search on international student wellbeing. This was a departure from more typical oral presentations using PowerPoint.
  • Students synthesised their findings and provided a proposal to school leadership regarding potential solutions

The approach taken by the school not only addresses all key aspects of the Transformation approach, but also incorporates active/interactive components and higher-order thinking and behavioural skills.

Social action is the culmination of transformative intercultural learning. In this case, students interacted cross-culturally with international students and proposed real, tangible changes on how to better create a seamless learning environment for both local and international students.

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.



Image: Intercultural education framework for Asia capability, adapted from Banks (1999); Intercultural understanding icon – AEF

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