About the Project
This project was developed and funded under the auspices of the Australian Government’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP).
What will the project do?
The project has been designed to build capacity in parents to influence students and schools to give priority to programs on Asian languages and studies. The project will focus on the four NALSSP target countries (China, Korea, Indonesia and Japan) to:
The Two Main Focus Areas
Why is this project needed?
The decline in the study of Asian languages in Australian schools has been an issue for some time. A 2002 research study found that approximately 50% of schools did not teach about Asia and we now have a situation where fewer than 6% of students complete Asian languages in Year 12.
Yet, a key study among the parents of Australian schoolchildren* found:
However, the study also found:
A 2006 survey of parents and students* which focused specifically on languages education resulted in similar findings. That study included three areas of inquiry that are particularly relevant to this project:
Usefulness and Relevance of Languages
Should all students study a language?86% of parents and 60% of students said language study should start in early primary school
Parent involvement & engagement
Parents influence the subject choices students make. Informed and engaged parents also drive school curriculum choices and pathways that are best for their children. There is undoubtedly a genuine interest among parents in their children having the opportunity to study other languages and cultures. However, there are also high levels of confusion and uncertainty among parents about how this can be done effectively.
It is critical, if participation rates of students studying Asian languages and studies are to be lifted to any significant extent, that parents are meaningfully engaged as key allies in the process. The project will leverage from the unique understandings and networks of the national parents organisations, the knowledge and expertise of the consortium members and the above data to increase student demand for the studies of Asian culture and languages.
Influencing and enabling parent communities
Research on change management and influence* indicates the provision of information is not enough to engage or persuade communities to change behaviour. To only focus on the reasons for change, or on the negative results from avoidance of change can also result in fear or resistance. In the instance of promoting Asia literacy this could be, “don’t tell me what is best for my children”. Rather, effective influence of communities incorporates an Appreciative Inquiry approach. The project will focus on Asian connectedness within the parent community, support the development and sharing of positive case studies of Asian engagement among parent peers, and leverage existing positive networks.
Views of Members of the Executives of the Australian Council of State School Organisations and Australian Parents Council on Studies of Asia in Australian Schools: a study commissioned by the Asia Education Foundation in partnership with the ACSSO and APC. Solved at McConchie, 2006
Attitudes towards the study of languages in Australian schools: The national statement and plan - making a difference or another decade of indifference? Solved at McConchie, 2007
Making the emotional case for change: Why change often stalls, Mc Kinsey Quarterly, 2010, no2.
Building on Existing Strategies
The project will engage parents in building student demand for Asian languages and studies by adapting and applying strategies that have been proven to be highly successful in previous parental engagement programs.
The project will complete the circle of school community engagement with Asia literacy; while previous NALSSP initiatives have focused on school leaders, teachers and students this project brings parents into the picture. By doing so, the influence that parents have in supporting student decision-making in relation to the study of Asian languages and cultures will be tapped in a way that will provide rich benefits to the studies of Asia and specifically to the studies of the four NALSSP target languages and cultures.
The project will build upon the existing body of knowledge in respect of parental engagement with schooling and apply existing and new knowledge and understandings to the promotion of and engagement with Asia literacy. In so doing it will build demand for the study of the four target NALSSP languages and cultures.
Previous parental engagement programs have demonstrated that when parents are interested and engaged with their children's education, their own motivation is stimulated to learn about new ways of seeing and interacting with their world. It is therefore likely that through stimulating demand for students to learn about other languages and cultures, many of their parents will be inspired to expand their own knowledge and understanding.
The project has been designed in such a way as to achieve its immediate objectives in ways that lend towards promoting and achieving broader Australian Government aims and objectives in respect of building the interest in and engagement of Australians with our Asian region.
Looking towards sustainability
A key element of the project is deepening the existing institutional resources and tools to strengthen the understandings of parents regarding Asia literacy. These tools and frameworks will be embedded within the online resource bases of the Asia Education Foundation and Education Services Australia, forming a new resource for parents. It is anticipated the two national parent organisations and parents engaged within their networks, including those directly engaged in this project, will continue their work when the project concludes through assisting other parents to build the capacity to engage with schools in this important area.
The structure of the project will ensure that two key drivers are in place to ensure sustainability of outcomes. In the first instance, strategies for building parent capacity will be in place and a pool of experienced parent participants from the project will be able to be accessed. Secondly, the availability of tools and frameworks, such as the “What Works” Guide will provide direct assistance to interested parents and schools to ensure the ongoing continuity of initiatives commenced in this project.
The Australian Parents Council (APC) and the Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) will work through our national networks and in consultation with the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) to identify and recruit two to three parents from each of seventy-five schools to participate in a train-the-trainer Asia literacy program to become parent advocates for Asia literacy in schooling.
The seventy-five schools will be selected from the government, Catholic and independent school sectors in metropolitan, regional and at least one rural location. The schools will range from those that have strong Asian languages and studies programs supported by their parent communities to schools where there is little interest and activity.
Parents recruited to train as parent advocates will be brought together in school clusters, each incorporating approximately five schools, to participate in one-day training workshops from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Clusters will reflect the diversity of engagement levels that schools have with studies of Asia, to the extent such is possible. Parent mentors will also attend the training workshops for the clusters they are supporting. State and territory affiliates of APC and ACSSO will organise training venues and plan and attend to logistical arrangements.
Fifteen cluster training workshops will be conducted by Beasley Intercultural, who will liaise with the national parent bodies and the AEF in developing the training content and materials.
The training delivered to participants will be informed by:
Parent mentors will provide a linkage point between the parents from cluster schools and Beasley Intercultural prior to the workshops to ensure that the approach taken to the training in each workshop is relevant to the targeted school parent communities.
The training workshops will comprise a balance between providing information and stimulating dialogue, engaging participants in conversation based on their own attitudes towards and experiences of intercultural learning and interaction, their experience (if any) as parents in their children’s learning about Asia and the engagement of their children’s schools with studies of Asia.
An important element of the training workshops will be assisting parent advocates in the development of strategies to identify and bring on board the relevant teaching staff and leaders within their schools. Engaging with key internal stakeholders (parent groups, teachers, principals, members of school leadership teams) will be an important task for parent advocates. The principle of positive, mutually respectful partnerships will underpin the training and this element in particular.
Participants in the training will be provided with a pre-training pack which will include an overview of the project’s aims, objectives and processes, background information and pre-participation ideas and questions.
Guiding concepts for the training workshops and materials will include:
Case studies will be developed in the form of a single A4 page and vodcast – personal photo stories encompassing the Asian engagement experiences of ‘real people like me’, reflecting the diversity of demographics, appearance, motivations, etc., that showcase the arguments being made for Asian literacy in respect of the four NALSSP target languages and cultures. The AEF’s Asia Literacy Ambassadors Program and the My Future: Asia Skills materials will be a valuable resource for the development of the case studies.
Fresh and positive approaches highlighting the benefits of Asia literacy that will appeal to a parental audience will be taken in the development of training and support materials. They will be made available to parent mentors and advocates in hard copy and electronic form. The Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau (the Bureau) website will host the electronic training materials in a secure area accessible to parent mentors and advocates.
It is important to make electronic versions of such materials available. Past experience has shown that parents trained as trainers will innovate and tailor materials to their particular school communities as they consider necessary (with appropriate authorisation) to ensure that the messages are relevant to and can achieve maximum impact in their local community.
The consortium will provide ongoing support to project participants via an electronic network and relevant project materials will be housed on the Family-School & Communities Partnerships Bureau website.
In school activities
Parent advocates will be equipped with the necessary information, strategies and guidance to:
A key task of the parent advocates will be to organise and lead at least one parent forum that has the objectives of:
Parent advocates will be guided and encouraged to utilise in-school communication resources to further the above objectives.
In undertaking these activities parent advocates will have the ongoing guidance and support of their parent mentors, and through the parent mentors access to the support and resources of their state or territory parent organisation and/or their Beasley Intercultural trainers as considered necessary and appropriate.
Showcase in the general community
As a key element of the project, the project consortium will lead a publicity campaign to leverage project resources and activities. The campaign will focus on influencing parents and the broader community through taking the key project messages to a broader audience, beyond the standard ‘parent audience’. Target media outlets will include:
Parent Advocate Profile
A Parent Advocate is:
Examples of activities undertaken by Parents for Asia Literacy who are already involved in the project
Australian Parents Council
Australian Council of State School Organisations
Australian Council of State School Organisations
Family School & Community Partnerships Bureau
Dr Bob Carbines
Asia Education Foundation
PUAL Project Officer
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