There is currently an historic convergence of national economic agendas and educational reforms that mirror the economic rationalism of these agendas. Calls for increasing teacher professionalism regularly appear in the media and political debates, connecting the effectiveness of education and teacher quality to the position(ing) of Australia in the global economy and linking education to its economic and geo-political competitiveness. Even though the correlation between Australia's competitiveness and schooling is not quite straightforward and hence, is widely debated, various reports and inquiries into teaching and teacher education have galvanised public opinion about the belief that schools and teachers are not performing well enough. The resultant reforms have aimed, therefore, to raise academic standards for students and professional standards for teachers. Professional standards and accountability have become a new steering mechanism in raising the quality of education.
This paper addresses, in particular, the current initiative of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to draw on the National Professional Standards for Teachers in order to build the Asia-literate teaching workforce. It explores convergences and divergences between the Standards and how teachers represent their practice and capabilities in planning, teaching and assessing for students' learning about Asia. It reports on the inquiry into what counts as the Asia-literate teacher in the context of tensions between general claims about effective teaching and the locally specific character of professional practice. Teachers' understanding of their practice in relation to the Asia priority needs to be situated at the intersection between such general claims and their specific situations of practice (Kostogriz, 2007). To explore the paradoxes of professional practice and the challenge of constructing representations of the Asia-literate teacher, we distinguish two spatial scales of analysis - the abstract space of teacher work standardisation and the lived space of professional practice (Lefebvre, 1991). In doing so, the paper brings together these spaces in a dialectical relationship as they both produce the meanings of educational 'effectiveness' and create conditions for more productive and (self)reflexive teaching. The recognition of this tension in practice has provided a basis for tracing the ways in which Asia literacy is bound up with the teachers' knowledge in, of and for their professional practice and, indeed, for approaching the notion of the Asia literate teaching workforce as the very condition of pedagogical possibilities in and for a cosmopolitan Australia.