Do teachers regard Australia as part of Asia? An educational and political dilemma

Year: 1995

Author: Halse, Chris, Baumgart, Neil

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Current Federal and State government policy seeks to locate Australia economically, politically and socially within Asia. Some of the most strategic initiatives have been in education and included the teaching and learning of Asian languages, cross-curricula Studies of Asia, and related resource development. The success of such programs depends not only on teachers' knowledge about Asian peoples and countries but also their degree of intercultural understanding.

This paper reports on a national project which investigated the views of teachers about Australia and selected Asian countries. The study drew on inter-disciplinary literature to construct a conceptual framework encompassing the world views of different cultures and providing the basis for an instrument to illuminate teachers' perspectives on peoples, countries and cultures of the region.

The investigation of "Inter-Cultural Understanding in Education" (identified by acronym I-CUE) analysed key I-CUE variables from a sample of teachers across Australia. The findings provide some surprising insights into teachers' views and I-CUE on Asia and Australia which suggest that teachers' perspectives are a constraint in the development of students' intercultural understanding.

Such findings pose a political and educational dilemma. Meyer argued that cultural understanding ought be an essential outcome for school leavers but the I-CUE study indicates that more fundamental issues must be addressed. Given international trends towards globalisation, the national priority on bridging the Australia-Asia gulf and the multi-cultural profile of local classrooms, the I-CUE findings highlight the urgency of implementing strategies which foster teachers' inter-cultural understanding.