China as Method: Giving space for different cultures to be seen, heard and discussed in a LOTE language classroom

Year: 2019

Author: Zhang, Chunyan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As a complex set of processes, globalisation is ‘the waywe now live’(Giddens, 1999).Resulting from global flows between East and West, many Australian classrooms have gradually become multilingual and globalised after successive waves of immigrant children having enrolled and settled in local schools. In identifying the significance of Australia’s engagement with Asia,many schools in Victoria have responded to this plan by introducing one of the suggested Asian languages as their LOTE (Languages Other Than English) program, and Mandarin Chinese is one of them.

Within the last six years of doing research-based teaching as a language teacher in a suburban Primary School in Melbourne, I have observed how students’ subjective interpretations of China and Chinese culture are based on their diverse linguistic, cultural, socio-economic backgrounds and the prior, formal or informal, individual learning knowledge. In recognition of this inter-reference between Chinese culture and other diverse world cultures, especially Asian cultures in the process of knowledge flow between teachers and students, I call it “China as method”. Namely, teaching Chinese language and culture becomes a method that makes different cultures visible to Australian young learners. In these knowledge flows between teacher and students, students to students, different cultures can be seen, heard and discussed in our classrooms, and young learners are encouraged to see the culture others in the context of globalised Australian classrooms.

Against the backdrop of contemporary globalised multicultural society in Australia, China as method presents a number of important implications: (1) unsettle the imbalanced knowledge flow between peripheral (Eastern or Asian) and metropole (Euro-American or Australian) societies and between China and other Asian cultures in today’s globalised world; (2) help our young learners see cultural others, differentiate cultural stereotypes, understand, tolerate and respect cultural differences, and minimise or eliminate racism in Australia; (3) add to the discussion of how education, from an individual level, contributes to a socially just, culturally diverse, and multiculturally harmonious world; (4)the teaching purpose of ‘developing an attitude to multicultural society without China’ignites the old debate on this ideological shift of teaching focus: a) how LOTE program should be conducted when cultural or racial conflicts or religious terrorist attacks constantly arise around the world? b) how to foster an equal status of teacher-student relationship in knowledge creation process in modern classrooms?