Australia in the Asian Century
Number 219, November 2012
There is now a national policy framework for Asia literacy, with the 2008 Melbourne Declaration supported by the Australian Curriculum's establishment of Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia as a cross-curriculum priority, and intercultural understanding established a general capability. The Australian Education Foundation (AEF) is working with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to establish ways in which national teaching standards might recognise Asia literacy of teachers and school leaders. The AEF's National Statement on Asia Literacy in Australian Schools offers a framework for the achievement of Asia literacy. However, implementation is currently being left to individual education systems and schools. A number of initiatives and innovations show promise as ways to nurture Asia literacy. The use of advanced ICT for teaching and learning will facilitate sustained international contact and adaptable and equitable access to learning opportunities; for example, through the BRIDGE project that combines online social media and face-to-face contact between Australian and Indonesian students and educators. More opportunities should be created for high-level learning; for example, via school-university partnerships, specialist study facilities and international student exchanges for intensive language studies. The shortage of Asian language teachers needs to be addressed during teacher education and through ongoing professional learning of teachers and school leaders, such as the Leading 21st Century Schools: Engage with Asia program. It may also be alleviated by hiring Chinese and Japanese teaching assistants and perhaps drawing on international students. Student demand for Asia-related material and language studies can be developed further through the Asia Literacy Business Ambassadors program and similar initiatives. The school education system should also draw more extensively on Asian language spoken by or available to students of Asian heritage, and promote more widely the social value of these languages. Progress has been limited by the small-scale and fragmented nature of most initiatives to date. Education systems need to target resources strategically; for example, by highlighting the value of studies of Asia 'as the most effective pathway to Asia literacy', correcting a disproportionate emphasis on Asian languages education, and promoting awareness of the many resources available. The past decades demonstrate the need for funding to be sustained, to avoid loss of momentum, and coordinated to achieve efficiencies.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Encouraging students to study science: a new model for universities to engage school students with science
May 2012; Pages 95–109 (Conference Proceedings Part A)
University science faculties should implement programs to develop and sustain school students' interest in scientific careers. By the later secondary school years, university outreach is purely a marketing exercise as particular universities compete for enrolments from a group of students that have become fairly fixed; the key phases to intervene are the primary and early secondary years. Primary school children are particularly open to exploring new ideas and activities. At this stage the emphasis of outreach programs should be on fun activities that encourage children to see science as enjoyable and relevant to everyday life. Children should be invited to the tertiary campus where they and teachers can have access to valuable university resources. Activities should also involve graduate and undergraduate science students, who themselves gain skills interacting with young children. Bachelor of Science courses should include pathways to teaching. Links with parents are also especially important at this age, as their expectations and prejudices are readily aborbed by their children. Children become aware of their parents' jobs from age four and older pre-teen children are making preliminary career decisions. Parents play subtle but important roles in supporting children's learning in particular areas, either directly or by facilitating involvement in extracurricular activities, which then feed into students' enjoyment of and expectations of success in those activities. Mothers in particular influence children's expectations of where and how far they will go in terms of career, and often play a key role in reproducing gender stereotypes. While science fairs may attract families which already value science, it is also important to reach out to other parents through other locations such as supermarkets. University activities should be supported by written material for parents to take with them, explaining pathways to a scientific career, potential jobs and potential earnings. In the secondary years and adolescence teachers play more of a role in students' academic self-identity and self-confidence, particularly in the physical sciences where gender bias is again an issue. Teachers have a multiplier effect, teaching perhaps 4,000 students over their careers, so it is in the interests of universities to offer teachers ongoing professional development. Teachers sometimes also act as mentors and informal careers advisors but as with formal careers counsellors their impact varies with the quality of their professional work. Peers are a very important influence in these years, although often a negative one. At least some university programs should allow for students to be involved outside their established peer groups, eg through summer schools. There should be mechanisms to encourage social networking among prospective students, either face-to-face at science events or via online social media.
Key Learning AreasScience
Transitions in schooling
Using writing tasks to elicit adolescents' historical reasoning
Volume 44 Number 3, 16 November 2012; Pages 273–299
Professional historians tend to present disciplinary writing in the form of an argument. The argument they make acknowledges and accounts for information from varied sources, including material which may superficially appear to contradict their case; historians acknowledge such variations and reconcile them to their arguments. School students need to acquire this approach, since students' initial tendency is simply to summarise information rather than argue a case or, if a case is put, to acknowledge only evidence supporting their argument. A recent study has examined whether particular types of writing tasks might help to develop students' capacity for authentic historical thinking and argumentation. The study involved 101 students in years 10 or 11 taking classes on US history or modern world history, at a school catering to a low-SES urban community in the USA. Students were asked to write essays about two historical documents: speeches delivered by Winston Churchill and Harry Truman concerning the origins of the Cold War. The essays were scored on three aspects of historical reasoning. The first was substantiation or the provision of evidence and explanation. The second was 'perspective recognition', the ability to present historical texts as viewpoints to be evaluated rather than uncritically accepted. The third was contextualisation, or the extent to which students situated their argument in the appropriate time and place. The students were prompted to take one of four approaches to the speeches, randomly assigned to each class member. Students assigned to take the first approach, referred to as the 'situated prompt', were asked to imagine themselves living at the time and working as an assistant to one of the two Western leaders; they were asked to articulate their own case in support of their leader's views. This prompt was designed to develop students' capacity for inferential thinking. However, it appears to have led students towards 'presentism'; that is, to the error of applying their own present perspectives to a past situation. The nature of the task did not create a strong drive to examine the historical documents closely, identifying and resolving different perspectives within the documents. The other approaches, prompts two to four, were found to be more sucessful. They were all effective in encouraging students to look closely at the documentation, recognise different historical perspectives and reconcile variations as the student constructed an argument from them. One of these tasks, known as the 'sourcing prompt', called on students to identify historical events or concerns that induced Churchill and Truman to deliver the speeches they did. The 'document analysis' prompt called on students to compare the two leaders' speeches, involving them in corroborating sources, while the 'causal prompt' asked students to give reasons for the two leaders' speeches.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Thought and thinking
Languages in Australia: future and survival in a mono-lingual context: a survey of the Victorian School of Languages (VSL)
May 2012; Pages 150–164
The paper examines issues in languages education, through a brief review of the history of language studies in Australia and, more particularly, through the analysis of a survey of staff at the Victorian School of Languages (VSL), which has over 800 teachers and operates in 41 centres around the state. Attitudes toward languages and language studies have varied over time in Australia. From the early days of European settlement Australia was ethnically and linguistically diverse, and 'there were times when multilingualism was recognised and practiced'. However, attitudes changed significantly under pressure from 'jingoistic patriotism' during the two world wars. Multilingualism was not embraced again until the mid 1970s. The VSL was established in 1935. It taught Japanese and Italian, in contrast to most language instruction in schools which focused on French, German, Latin or Ancient Greek. Now, the VSL teaches over 45 languages to approximately 15,000 students, at 41 centres or through distance education. In late 2011 VSL staff took part in a survey seeking their view on multiculturalism, multilingualism and language teaching. A total of 552 staff responded to the survey. Almost four in five respondents were women. Respondents were concerned at the lack of interest in language learning in Australia as a whole, and among students. They felt that this attitude was expressed, for example, in indifference to the current decline in the number of ethnic media outlets. More than half the respondents believed that there is inadequate coordination and promotion of language education, and also feared that some languages would cease to be taught due to declining VCE enrolments. Most expressed concern at the shortage of language teachers, and most also believed that universities need to do more to support languages education. A further concern among many respondents was the weakness of links between language learning and vocational education. Many agreed that the VSL played an important role in the provision of language education and called for it to receive more promotion and support.
Key Learning AreasLanguages
Subject HeadingsLanguage and languages
Teaching and learning
Volume 44 Number 3, 2012; Pages 24–29
Geography Challenge is an interactive program for NSW students in years 9 and 10, developed by the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre. Through the program, students undertake a virtual field trip to a real place, the Narawang Wetland, Sydney. They examine climate, flora and fauna, and the functioning of the wetland, including basic fluvial processes and factors impacting on water quality. In contrast to many other virtual field trips, the students play an active role, collecting and interpreting data in various ways. Student work through and analyse simulated survey results. They also interview community stakeholders, such as 'local residents, Indigenous groups, conservationists, property developers and environmental managers'. Students are called on to discuss issues raised by community groups such as Streamwatch and events such as Clean Up Australia. They are also exposed to simulated meetings of the local council and of a council subcommittee focused on local water and pests. Students are called on to consider issues which call for a balance between economic development, environmental protection and social wellbeing. Students' work is entered onto a pdf report which is accessible to the teacher. They can present their findings in the form of a website or a multimedia presentation. Students have the opportunity to acquire research skills and knowledge as they acquire, process and interpret data – learning, for example, the distinction between primary and secondary data, and how to communicate research findings. At the same time, they are introduced to geographical skills and knowledge about maps and geographic information systems, and methods for monitoring weather and water quality. In terms of literacy, students learn to understand texts through 'glossaries, images, videos and audio' while in terms of numeracy, they are called on to analyse and process statistical data. In terms of values, they are offered opportunities to develop their understanding of ecological sustainability, intercultural awareness and informed and active citizenship. Geography Challenge has been designed to support the Australian Curriculum.
Key Learning AreasStudies of Society and Environment
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
New South Wales (NSW)
Technology vs instruction: what schools need to do to ensure instruction wins
Volume 16 Number 5, June 2012
Information and communication technology (ICT) is not a substitute for quality teaching, but when well applied, ICT provides immense assistance to students, teachers and educational leaders. ICT can help students learn facts, by offering ready, continuous access to abundant information on a vast range of subjects. This information can be reproduced and synthesised in a wide range of audiovisual formats. Through ICT, students can observe simulations of phenomena otherwise inaccessible due to the barriers of time and space. And as well as providing access to factual knowledge, ICT enhances 'procedural knowledge'. For example, learning can be scaffolded by the use of interactive prompts embedded into learning resources, or through new forms of peer interaction made available online. ICT is a powerful motivator of student learning, not only making students more interested in topics studied but also more confident about their ability to learn. ICT offers many opportunities for individualised and personalised learning: material can be adjusted to students' individual interests and skill levels. It allows students to personalise interfaces and offers immediate, automatic feedback. At the same time ICT opens the opportunity to take part in online communities. Teachers too benefit from ICT, not only in terms of having new ways to teach, but also in terms of their own professional learning. Teachers and educational leaders benefit from ICT's capacity to collect and integrate data about student learning outcomes. ICT allows teachers and education leaders to collaborate regionally or globally. However, as well as offering these opportunities, ICT opens the door to wholesale reorganisation of the process of schooling. Schools are modelled on the work processes that prevailed in the twentieth century. ICT now offers opportunities for learning anywhere, anytime. Educators have only begun to exploit the affordances of ICT. Independent schools in Queensland are taking steps in this direction; for example, by exploring tools for social bookmarking, highlighting, tagging and annotating e-texts, and by collaborating through blogs and online forums. Teachers are also experimenting with flipped classrooms, in which core expository lesson material is put online for students, and class time is given over to other forms of interaction.
Subject HeadingsTeaching and learning
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
What goes on in an Islamic school?
Volume 11 Number 7, 2012; Pages 12–15
Among faith schools in Australia the main area of numerical growth has been 'with conservative Christian schools'. However, Islamic schools have attracted more publicity, following a local campaign against the establishment of an Islamic school in Camden, Sydney in 2007–08, and issues raised by the Australian Values debate in 2003. The author of the current article, a teacher of comparative religion at the Friends School, Hobart, reports on interviews with current and former staff and students at a range of Islamic schools in Australia. According to the 2011 census, Moslems comprise 2.2 per cent of the Australian population. Approximately half the Moslem community resides in Sydney and one third in Melbourne, hence most Islamic schools are in these two cities, with a scattering in other capitals. Ethnically, Moslems in Australia are diverse. Only about one in five are of Arab background. Most come from Lebanon or Turkey, but over 70 ethnic groups are represented in Australia. Initially the Moslem community found it hard to set up faith schools. Obtaining land was particularly difficult in Sydney, 'with a great deal of community opposition often masquerading as traffic concerns or related issues'. Some groups obtained funding from Gulf states, sometimes adopting names associated with these states. However, no Islamic school currently receives funding from overseas sources. Most of the schools charge fees but most are also entitled to Australian Government funding due to the low-SES of the localities in which they are set. However, only about 20 per cent of Moslem children attend Islamic schools. Most attend public schools, although others attend single-sex schools, particularly in the Catholic sector. In terms of curriculum, they are distinctive only in having additional classes on religion. School uniforms conform to Islamic dress codes, with girls wearing scarf or hijab and covering their arms and legs, and boys wearing long shorts. Alcohol is forbidden at school events, and gambling banned at events and as a form of fundraising. Religious education classes, taken by imams, are reported to vary widely in quality. Former students were critical of Arabic teachers, who did not always possess teaching qualifications; some schools now insist on them having Australian teaching qualifications. Some effort is made to cover historical Islamic contributions to learning; for example, in mathematics and science, and 'provide for a more balanced approach to history than the current somewhat Euro-Centric curriculum'. Most need ESL classes to provide for students from new arrivals in Australia. Health education is a contested area since sex and drug education are traditionally not discussed in class. Students are encouraged to keep fit, though sports education varies. Opinions vary on the role and nature of music and art education. Contrary to some allegations, Islamic schools do not teach hatred of other faiths and in fact encourage inter-faith dialogue. Students expressed eagerness to talk to non-Islamic peers to correct misconceptions about their faith and community beliefs and practices, in the context of extreme statements from individual Moslems, media portrayals, and public hostility linked to September 11 2001, the Bali bombings and even the first Gulf war.
Social life and customs
Cross-cultural research in mathematics education: challenges and opportunities
May 2012; Pages 30–36 Conference Proceedings (A)
Certain mathematical relationships such as the 'Golden Ratio' are repeated in different natural and social contexts around the world, and specialist symbols such as the Greek letter for phi are used by mathemeticians the world over. Such examples give rise to the concept that mathematics is culture-free. In most ways, however, mathematics is deeply embedded in culture. Mathematics is linked to culture more than is often realised and these links offer both challenges and opportunities. Societies vary widely in how many defined units of measurement they have. For example, Chinese society developed a defined unit for the number 10,000, while some South American tribes have only terms such as 'few' and 'many' to specify quantities; some Australian Aborigines, for whom spatial orientation was crucial, relied on words for compass directions and did not use terms 'left' and 'right' at all. Variations between cultures impact deeply on educational practices and on assessment practices, with implications for cross-cultural comparison of results. For example, the English names of geometric shapes, such as hexagon, tend to have Greek roots that are not self-evident to children, whereas the comparable name in Chinese has the word for 'six' embedded within it, making it easier to recall and freeing memory for other tasks. The terms used in one language may convey subtleties that are lost in translation. On the other hand, educators are now drawing from different teaching traditions to enrich their own practice. For instance, the Japanese practice of 'lesson study', involving 'careful and deep consideration of the lesson through discussion with peers', is now being adopted in Western countries.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsSocial life and customs
Teachers' leisure reading habits and knowledge of children's books: do they relate to the teaching practices of elementary school teachers?
Volume 48 Number 2, Summer 2011; Page 88
A growing body of evidence links primary teachers' leisure reading with their instructional practice. According to this research, teachers who read extensively for leisure are more likely to make extensive use of instructional practices with a strong evidence base for their effectiveness, such as teacher read-alouds, sustained silent reading in class and the practice of recommending specific books to students. There is also growing research evidence linking teachers' use of best instructional practices to the level of their knowledge of reading development. A small-scale survey in the USA has examined these issues. It asked primary teachers about the amount of leisure time they devoted to reading and to watching television, as well as about their knowledge of children's literature, and their instructional practices in the classroom. The survey was conducted in three mid-western states of the USA. It was completed by 70 teachers taking grades 1 or 2, 62 taking grades 3 to 5, and 29 kindergarten teachers. In the survey results, extensive use of best literacy practices was closely correlated with high levels of knowledge about children's literature. On the other hand, teachers who varied in the amount of leisure reading and in the amount of TV watched 'remained very similar in their reported use of best literacy practices'. The discrepancy in findings between this study and earlier research may be due to the wider range of instructional skills considered in the current investigation.
United States of America (USA)
There are no Conferences available in this issue.