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Teacher Education: Crossing the Cultural Borders of Australia and Asia.

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Becoming "Asia literate" is a pivotal part of the federal government's "Education Revolution". The federal government asserts that "equipping young Australians with the knowledge and skills to communicate and work with our regional neighbours...such skills must be a core element of an Australian school curriculum" (Gillard, 2008), especially in a climate of globalisation. Cultural intelligence, as suggested here, is of economic value, as intercultural knowledge and understandings are vital to preparing an Australia workforce that is globally competitive, and in particular, can capitalise on the economic opportunities available in Australia and region. There are, however, increasingly problematic issues surrounding the implementation of curriculum that fosters intercultural understanding between Australia and Asia, the presence of which ultimately questions how teacher-educator programs can prepare graduates to engage effectively in crossing such cultural borders. Using curriculum documents and a selection of teacher education, this paper explores how the concept of being "Asia literate" resides in current federal government policy, and in particular, it explores the tensions around the development of an "Asia literate" curriculum in terms of ideological differences with traditional Eurocentric approaches to education and what is known about effective cultural education. It then identifies and discusses the challenges for teacher-educator programs to equip graduates to realise these curriculum needs. The dilemma of introducing "another" or "other" culture without enforcing unnecessary division or creating insurmountable borders is complex. In light of this, Said poses a critical question: "Is the notion of a distinct culture (or race, or religion, or civilisation) a useful one, or does it always get involved either in self-congratulation (where one discusses one's own) or hostility and aggression (when one discusses the "other")?" (p.325-326) Fostering intercultural understanding is crucial to becoming "Asia literate", however an approach that implicitly or explicitly promotes a division between cultures and communities is problematic, especially as the "National Statement for Engaging Young Australians with Asia in Australian Schools", approved by the Ministerial council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs in 2005, highlights that: "our future is inextricably linked to the strength of the relationships and understandings that we forge with Asian countries" (AEF, 2006). On the basis of this analysis, the paper identifies and addresses three key implications for teacher educators in the context of the federal government's "Asia literate" policies. First, it investigates what knowledge base teachers need to ensure cultural awareness development of students immersed in "Asia literate" curriculum. Then, it explores how teacher educator programs can prepare teachers for this challenge. The paper closes with reflections on what import existing teacher educator programs place on the "Asia literate" focus, as available in current programs, and raises questions on the implications of the representation and circulation of "Asia literate" knowledge in the tertiary setting. (Contains 1 note.)

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Author:Salter, Peta
Publication:ERIC: Reports
Article Type:Abstract
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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