AFG Venture Group Dispatches

Corporate advisory and consultancy in Australia, South East Asia and India.

Building Demand for Asia Literacy

Lucy Carroll, Manager, Asia Literary Ambassadors Project, Asia Education Foundation

Asia Literacy

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said that he ‘wants Australia to become the most Asia-literate country in the Western world.’ Asia literacy is defined as knowledge, skills and understandings about the histories, geographies, societies, cultures, literature and languages of the diverse countries that make up our region. It is a core part of a 21st century Australian curriculum and assists young Australians to make sense of the part of the world in which they live.

The imperative for Australian students to become Asia literate has never been greater. Employment and lifestyle opportunities for Australians are increasingly influenced by the economies and societies of the Asian region, while immigrants from Asia play an active role in communities across Australia. Students leaving school with knowledge and understandings about Asia and strong intercultural skills will be best placed to maximise these opportunities.

‘Major changes in the world are placing new demands on Australian education…Australians need to become Asia literate, engaging and building strong relationships with Asia.’
Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, December 2008

Asia Literacy and the Australian Curriculum

The Australian Curriculum grew out of the Melbourne Declaration on the Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008). Australia has never had a national curriculum and eight different arrangements currently exist. The Australian Curriculum is being developed by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). It represents a new commitment from the states, territories and the Commonwealth to achieve national curriculum, and assessment and reporting of the curriculum standards. A quality education for all young Australians is critical to maintaining Australia’s productivity and quality of life. There is already a commitment to including in the new curriculum intercultural knowledge, skills and understandings related to Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia. These must be high priorities in the further development of the Australian Curriculum, along with the investment required to ensure that Australia’s teachers can deliver on the curriculum promise.

Business Alliance for Asia Literacy

Businesses across Australia have made an explicit commitment to supporting the development of Asia literacy in schools. The Business Alliance for Asia Literacy (BAAL), which includes AFG Venture Group, is made up of major corporations, peak bodies including the Australian Council for Trade Unions and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia who represent over 400,000 Australian businesses. These representatives of leading Australian businesses and industry organisations have called on school communities, education systems and governments to ensure that Asia skills and Asian languages are a core part of the Australian curriculum.

Signatories to the Business Alliance for Asia Literacy were encouraged to provide feedback on the Australian Curriculum during the consultation phase from February to May 2010. This was an opportunity to ensure that business had a voice in the shaping of national policy, ensuring that young Australians are prepared for the workforce of the Asia century.

Business and School Partnerships

Building on the Business Alliance for Asia Literacy, businesses and schools have joined forces to boost Australian secondary students’ interest in and understanding of Asia. The Asia Literacy Ambassadors – Partnering Businesses & Schools project is establishing and supporting partnerships between businesses and school communities to stimulate and increase student and school community demand for Asia literacy. Professionals from the business sector, or Asia Literacy Ambassadors, are being matched to secondary schools across Australia. By sharing their own story, Ambassadors are assisting school communities to better understand the opportunities available to employees who are knowledgeable about Asia, who speak an Asian language and who have the skills and dispositions needed to effectively engage with the people and cultures of Asia, off-shore and domestically.

The project is an initiative of the Australian Government and managed by the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) with the support of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australian Industry Group (AIG), the Business Council of Australia (BCA), education jurisdictions, schools and careers educators nationally.

Ambassadors are required to participate in at least three face-to-face interactions in the school, workplace or other contexts with students, school leaders, teachers, career practitioners, parents and/or school councils over a six-to-eight month period. Project partners have the flexibility to establish a partnership that best suits the specific interests, expertise and availability of the Ambassador and the needs of the school community.

By encouraging staff to become Ambassadors, businesses enable employees to connect with students and the schools community to make a difference. Businesses benefit through the additional skills their employees develop and the opportunity to increase their profile in the community. Specifically, this project brings opportunities to:

· share expertise, work and life experiences with Australian secondary school students and communities;

· mentor students and influence their career prospects and aspirations;

· increase the links between businesses and local school communities;

· contribute to an Australian workforce that is well-equipped to maximise the positive work and life opportunities that the Asian region and Asian-Australian communities offer;

· raise the profile of business with young Australians;

· connect with and identify young talent; and

· network with members of the Business Alliance for Asia Literacy.

This landmark initiative aims to build demand for Asia literacy in the community and highlight the diverse career and life opportunities that are available to those who are Asia literate. To register your interest and learn about becoming an Asia Literacy Ambassador, visit ambassador.asiaeducation.edu.au or contact Lucy Carroll, Project Manager (l.carroll@asialink.unimelb.edu.au or phone 03 9035 5264)

About the Author

Lucy Carroll is an educational practitioner with experience in range of diverse educative settings from P-12 in schools and beyond. She has worked as leader of learning for students, teachers and senior educators with particular emphasis on curriculum and leadership initiatives. Lucy is excited to be working on an initiative focused on the importance of intercultural understanding for young Australians in her current role as Manager, Asia Literacy Ambassadors Project at the Asia Education Foundation.

Copyright 2010, Lucy Carroll, Asia Education Foundation. All rights reserved. All material in this article is the Intellectual Property of Lucy Carroll, Asia Education Foundation and cannot be reproduced, copied, published, quoted or disseminated without the prior permission of Lucy Carroll, Asia Education Foundation.