Intercultural understanding: a key capability in the multicultural world
Number 228, September 2013
The report consists of three papers, ‘designed to provide an Intercultural (Asian) and an Indigenous lens to intercultural understanding’. Section one contains two papers. In the first, Kathe Kirby explains the role of the Australian Curriculum as a ‘game changer’ for Asia literacy. Building on earlier policy documents, the Australian Curriculum establishes three mechanisms to develop young people’s Asia literacy: the cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, the general capability of Intercultural Understanding, and the teaching of six Asian languages in schools. Another key document is Asia Literacy and the Australian Teaching Workforce, commissioned by AITSL; this document defines the features of an Asia-literate teacher and principal. In the second paper Eeqbal Hassim looks in detail at the characteristics of intercultural understanding through the medium of language, and at the framework underlying the Intercultural Understanding capability. In section two Lois Peeler and Pam Russell offer an ‘Aboriginal/Indigenous lens’ on intercultural understanding, described in relation to Worawa College, a girls’ boarding school for years 7–10, providing ‘immersion in Aboriginal language and culture’ for 70 students drawn from more than 30 Indigenous communities. The college has developed a set of cultural standards, adapted from those developed by the Assembly of Alaska Native Educators. The paper sets out cultural standards for students and for teachers: students are to be able to recognise and build on their cultural heritage; to participate in various cultural environments; and to engage effectively in learning activities that are based on traditional ways of knowing and learning. Educators are to be able to incorporate traditional ways of knowing and teaching into their work; regularly link their teaching to students’ lives, using local resources; to participate in and support community events; and to challenge students effectively to reach their full potential as learners. The three cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum, including the Asia and sustainability priorities, inform ‘every one of the learning units’ offered at the college. The college aims to maintain language and culture, balanced with the aim of proficiency in English. Its curriculum is ‘supported with scope and sequence documentation and assessment rubrics’. The college has also integrated the use of media and personalised learning. Each student has a digital learning portfolio, mainly oral and visual material. Teachers undertake a diagnostic assessment of each student to plan for personalised learning. While celebrating Indigenous Australians' identity, the school also works with 12 local partnership schools and is building partnerships with First Nation communities in Hawaii, Canada and New Zealand.
Subject HeadingsCurriculum planning
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
Social life and customs
Bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the classroom: why and how
Volume 21 Number 3, October 2013; Pages 24–29
The process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non- Indigenous Australians is assisted when students from both groups are exposed to one another’s cultures and histories at school. The inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in schools has also been shown to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ attendance, engagement and involvement. In most cases however Indigenous students are not exposed to their own culture at school, and must consequently conform to Anglo-Australian perspectives or drop out. This imbalance needs to be redressed, and one means to do so is to give teachers opportunities to develop their cross-cultural understanding. A starting point in this process is to understand some basics about Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians define themselves by three criteria: as having descended from Indigenous people, as having voluntarily identified as such, and as being accepted as such by the local Indigenous community. Indigenous Australians are widely dispersed, and their cultural practices vary widely between remote, regional and urban areas. In many cases Indigenous Australians from different backgrounds have been ‘thrown together’ and have developed ‘Kriol and Pidgin language forms’. So, while it is important to acknowledge the local indigenous culture surrounding a school, the school’s Indigenous students from other localities should also be recognised in lesson material. The locality from which material is obtained should also be mentioned. Teachers are concerned to avoid tokenistic treatment of Indigenous issues, but if taken too far, this concern can lead them to miss opportunities for quality learning experiences. The tokenism or depth of a learning experience depends on the extent to which it develops students’ intercultural knowledge, provides opportunities to interact with Indigenous people, and forms part of a broader exploration of Indigenous culture. In remote areas, Indigenous students should be encouraged to share their cultural knowledge within the school. At the same time they should be exposed to Standard Australian English as well as Aboriginal English, and should learn code-switching between their associated ‘cultural schemas’. In urban environments it is more likely that Indigenous students are one of many ‘non-Anglo’ groups, all of whom should have the chance to describe how a particular concept or narrative is understood within their own culture. The article lists a range of resources. It also offers a range of recommendations, eg to attend Indigenous cultural events, and to read the Koori Mail or National Indigenous Times.
Subject HeadingsIndigenous peoples
Teaching and learning
What alternative? A snapshot of VCAL as an alternative to senior secondary education in the western region of Melbourne
Volume 18 Number 3; Pages 209–220
The article discusses the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), and reports on a study of VCAL programs provided at a TAFE and at a secondary school. VCAL is a two year, workplace-oriented senior school certificate, offered either through schools or via further education providers. It is accredited at three levels: Foundation, Intermediate and Senior: these levels provide ‘entry points for students with different skill, attitude and knowledge levels’. VCAL has four curriculum strands. Literacy and numeracy skills are developed through subjects and units available via mainstream schooling or adult education curricula. Industry-specific skills are developed by completing VET modules and units, or industry-related training packages. Work-related skills, designed to develop employability, are achieved via work placement, apprenticeship, traineeship or part-time employment. Personal development skills such as teamwork are developed through community projects or other structured activities. The study took place 2009–10 in western Melbourne. At TAFE, evidence was obtained from interviews with 20 students and 10 teaching staff and from case studies and focus group sessions with students. VCAL at TAFE level tends to be seen by some secondary schools as an alternative for students ‘that they believe the school can no longer cater for’, due to poor academic results, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and self-management issues. Comments from the VCAL students in the study supported this picture: they generally indicated they had taken up VCAL at TAFE ‘at the behest of the school’ from which they’d come, and referred to their lack of choice. Research at the school involved interviews with 25 students and focus group sessions with a further 15 students, and a survey including 42 students. The participants were in year 9 and above. They tended to see VCAL as a genuine choice they had opted for, and their evaluations of their own success were much more positive than those of the TAFE students. They also appeared to have strong support networks assisting their academic development. The findings suggest that TAFE absorbs students unable to fit into the school environment. However, TAFEs are not equipped to provide for the complex needs of such students: they lack the pastoral care, specialist resources, timetable organisation or and peer group structures available in schools. These struggling students need complex systems of support, whether in schools or higher education. The competitive system under which schools operate complicates the problem of providing for these young people, as it discourages schools from providing for disadvantaged, high-need students.
Subject HeadingsTechnical and Further Education (TAFE)
VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Behind the façade of fee-free education: shadow education and its implications for social justice
Volume 39 Number 4, 2013; Pages 480–497
Around the world, education systems are increasingly ‘shadowed’ by private tutoring that takes the official school curriculum as a point of departure. This private tutoring is far greater in scale today than in the past. While concentrated on senior secondary schooling, ‘shadow education’ is also found at middle and primary levels. It involves many struggling students but also many high performers seeking competitive advantage. It focuses mainly on subject areas most central to academic progress, typically mathematics and language studies. Shadow education occurs in a spectrum from one-to-one tutoring through to lecture theatres ‘with overflow rooms served by video screens’. The scale of private tutoring correlates to the extent of social competition prevailing in a country rather than to the overall quality of education that exists there. The tutors themselves may be self-employed or work for national or international franchises; they may have long term careers as tutors but may also be university or senior school students working part time and only in the short term. In some countries teachers also work as tutors: this raises concerns that tutoring may reduce the quality of their performance in school classes, where their income is already guaranteed via standardised pay. Tutoring may also remove talented teachers altogether from the school system. A further concern is that tutoring beyond school may exhaust students and remove time for recreation and physical activity. At the same time, tutoring may also operate positively, helping struggling students to catch up, and advanced students to reach their potential. The article includes an extensive discussion of United Nations’ endeavours to provide free education to all students as an expression of fundamental human rights.
Building global learning communities
Volume 21, 2013
Mobile social media offers a means for students to collaborate globally on academic projects. The article discusses a collaboration between university students and staff in a range of countries, using a model that is ‘potentially transferrable to a range of educational contexts’. The ‘icollab mobile social media community of practice (CoP)’ has involved researchers, lecturers and students in New Zealand, Britain, Spain and Germany in action research cycles each year since 2011. Each of the student groups took part in a local community of practice that explored a variety of mobile social media tools relevant to their own course context, and then used these tools to generate project content. The groups used cross-platform devices such as ‘iOS, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone 7-8’. At the start of the projects students introduced themselves by creating and sharing 30-second Youtube clips, then created a group wiki. The output from each of the projects was then collated on the wiki, with links to each item shared globally via Twitter with the #icollab11 hashtag. Further results were curated for 2012; results are currently curated at http://icollab.wordpress.com. Being unfunded, the overarching project was unconstrained by funding milestones. One key issue has been the need to provide scaffolding to the students while still allowing them substantial autonomy. Another issue has been the need to bridge the academic calendars of the northern and southern hemispheres.
Checks and balances
Volume 34 Number 5, October 2013; Pages 24–29
In Boston a teacher leadership program has been designed to improve teachers’ leadership skills while also measuring their subsequent success, and investigating factors that support their leadership development. It culminates in a teacher leadership certificate. The program is a collaboration between a public education fund and Boston Public Schools. Its design draws heavily upon the ‘gold mine’ of leadership experiences that Boston teachers already possess, and it continues to be monitored and refined through feedback from pre- and post-course surveys and exit slips. Another source of evidence is online discussions between participants. These have led the program leaders to revise course content. For example, when it became clear during discussions that many teacher leaders found it hard to deal with difficult colleagues, a new section was added to the curriculum, addressing the issue through resource materials, suggested strategies, and role-play activities. Overall,data strongly supports the value of the program: in the surveys, for instance, almost all participants indicated a belief that the program would allow them to have a positive impact on other teachers’ performance, as well as their own.
Subject HeadingsSchool leadership
Teaching and learning
United States of America (USA)
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