Asia literacy is an Australian education policy goal intended to educate Australian school students about Asian languages, cultures, and economies and, in turn, deepen Australian engagement with the Asian region. First defined in 1988, the concept has since been adapted by a suite of Asia education policies with more than 60 relevant policy documents having been published since the 1950s. However, despite being a cornerstone education policy, political vagaries have prevented the widespread and sustained implementation of Asia literacy education in schools. Tied to the broader goal of engaging with Asia, Asia literacy is in conflict with a sense of an Australian national identity and entangled with Australian economic, education, and foreign policies. A thematic review of the extant policy data and scholarly literature reveals several flaws in Asia literacy policy. Namely, it is underpinned by several assumptions: Asia literacy is learned in formal education; Asia is a knowable entity; proficiency in languages, cultures, and economies equates to Asia literacy; and Asia literacy is assumed to resolve national disengagement from Asia. This approach fails to account for everyday Asia literacy enlivened in the multicultural and multilingual Australian society. Scholars have argued that this “others” Asia from everyday Australian life. The implications of this model of Asia literacy play out in the classroom with few teachers reporting confidence in teaching Asia literacy content, and enrollments in Asia-related subjects being perpetually low. Newer policy imperatives which stipulate the teaching and learning of intercultural competencies may help to dissolve the construct of the Asian other and enliven Asia literacy in the classroom beyond knowledge of languages and cultures. If pursued, this can foster dynamic knowledge of Asia in Australian schools, bringing Asia closer to the everyday and enhancing engagement with the Asian region.
Emily S. Rudling
The communities that constitute the racialized category of Asian Americans consist of approximately 20 million people in the United States, or about 5% of the total population. About 20% or 4 million are of primary or secondary school age, and over 1.1 million are in higher education. Both in popular and academic discourse, “Asian American” generally refers to people who have ethnic backgrounds in South Asia (e.g., Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (e.g., Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), and East Asia (e.g., China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). As “Asian American” is an umbrella term used to categorize a very diverse, heterogeneous, and transnational set of populations, Asian Americans as a group present various challenges to education and research in and about the United States. These challenges can concern paradigms of achievement, citizenship, family involvement, access (e.g., higher education, bilingual education), language and culture, race and ethnicity, and school community. In order to address these paradigmatic challenges, a great deal of scholarship has called for a disaggregation of the data on populations that fall under the pan-ethnic “Asian America” umbrella term, to gain a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the many diverse populations and their historical, cultural, economic, and political experiences. To further address the problematic framing of Asian Americans in education and related fields, scholars have applied critical lenses to key tensions within conceptualization, policy, curriculum, and pedagogy. More recently, the notions of intersectionality and transnationalism have been generative in the study of Asian Americans, within not only educational research but also Asian American studies, which generally falls under the field of ethnic studies in the U.S. context, but has also been categorized under American studies, cultural studies, or Asian studies. While characterizations of Asian Americans as “the Model Minority” or “the Oppressed Minority” persist, the relevance of such static binaries has increasingly been challenged as the Asian American populations and migrations continue to diversify and increase.