Defining Asian Social Studies in New South Wales’ secondary schools : a curriculum history, 1967−2002
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In the 21st century, Australia is an integral part of the Asian region. Knowledge and understanding about Asia, and Australia’s relationship with Asia, is crucial for all young Australians. The close proximity to Australia of this diverse region, together with its rich history and culture, increasing economic power and trade relationships, issues of security, and affordable air travel for many, means that to know about and communicate with our Asian neighbours is a reality. However, for well over a century Australia’s relationship with Asia has been contentious, continually debated and always uncertain. The impact that such discourse has on students is immeasurably great. It is evidenced in significant education policy and curriculum changes and developments. Asian Social Studies, the New South Wales (NSW) secondary school elective subject at the centre of this research, is a key example of such evidence. The study presents a rich, detailed account of the history of Asian Social Studies, a secondary school subject in NSW, from its beginnings in 1967 through an era of changing political, social, and economic contexts for Australia. The research is, for this reason, a significant part of Australian curriculum history. Asian Social Studies represented the beginnings of a movement toward intercultural understanding for NSW students. For teachers, Asian Social Studies was also a significant curriculum development. To teach about Asia through curriculum that required flexibility and inter-disciplinality, teachers needed leadership and collaboration. Accounts of these form part of this case study: a case study which is timely in the 21st century, and in NSW in particular. The subject, Asian Social Studies, was not renewed by the Board of Studies NSW in 2002 and, therefore, ceased to exist as a subject beyond 2005. The importance of the construction and development of curricula has only taken prominence in research recently. Informed by Goodson’s social constructionist approach (1988, 1994), this research builds on the increased attention to subject-specific histories. A multi-level qualitative approach to analysis is used for this curriculum history research. Through a methodology that combines historical research with ethnographic dimensions, this research presents a case study is presented that gives insight into the people and processes of a subject’s development. The thesis firstly examines the “written” curriculum, using a “slices of time” strategy. This strategy promotes depth of analysis at key junction points. A comparative analysis of the processes and prescription of the three Asian Social Studies syllabus documents of 1967, 1976 and 1985 is provided. Indeed, the history of Asian Social Studies is a key example where the “written” curriculum has reinforced Goodson’s concept that curriculum construction is both contested and complex. Insights arising from this research include the degree to which significant players in Asian Social Studies, both individual as well as members of a professional teaching association, present a collective commitment to establish, and then to continue to revise and update, the subject for students in NSW secondary schools. This research shows that this was accomplished in a context of intense debate over the pedagogical approaches to the enactment of Asian Social Studies. Secondly, the research values life history as an important source of curriculum history. Thus a single biographical inquiry, using an open-ended interview with a key educator who was intimately involved in the three syllabus documents at the pre-enacted and enacted stages of development, is a major part of the study. Finally, an examination of the Asia Education Teachers’ Association reaffirms the key role that professional teaching associations of a subject, such as Asian Social Studies, have.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Education and Professional Studies
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