Eeqbal Hassim`s presentation

Asia: Bridging the mental and
emotional gap
Main argument
The need to move from transactional engagement with
Asia to transformational engagement.
• There is a mental and emotional gap with Asia
despite our proximity.
• We can can call it ‘psychological distance’.
• We need to bridge that gap.
The effects of psychological distance …
Our reality
• (Other than Antarctica!) we live on a continent with the least
number of countries.
• Finding a pragmatic reason to engage with our neighbours
and the rest of the world is tough—we need to make the
reasons personal and meaningful.
Intercultural understanding is a global competence that all
students need to develop. It is the basis of engaging with
Asia knowledge is not an end in itself. Transformative
thinking about the region and cultural diversity/change is.
Intercultural understanding is more about cognitiveaffective processes than answers. Seeking ‘answers’ leads to
piecemeal awareness of ‘cultures’ and risks cultural
Diversity is closer than we think.
The taxi driver …
• The choice: transact or relate?
• I’ve had fascinating intercultural learnings with taxi
• Intercultural learning requires the desire to learn
from others and to see their point of view.
What is my basis?
• Conceptual frameworks:
– Intercultural understanding
– Intercultural competences
– Intercultural engagement
• What the research says:
– Educators are driven by intercultural understanding,
transformative thinking about cultural diversity and prejudice
reduction, not economics and policy
– The need for a strong moral purpose and rigorous conceptual
frameworks for sustainable engagement
Fickle minded Australia?
• Have you ever thought about what our Asian
neighbours might think about our desire to engage
with Asia? Here’s a story …
• It’s called ‘let’s wait and see’ …
– What can we learn from it
– We engage with Asia because it is what good neighbours do –
do we wait for our neighbour to drive a flashy car before we talk
to them?
– If Asia wasn’t so big and economically important, would we be
as concerned?
Intercultural understanding – a definition
Intercultural understanding – It includes knowledge of
one’s own culture and of the similarities and differences
between cultures. But, knowledge alone is insufficient.
Positive attitudes such as empathy and respect for
other cultures are also required, e.g. the affective basis
of intercultural sensitivity.
From multicultural to intercultural
• A necessary shift
Multicultural education uses learning about other cultures in
order to produce acceptance, or at least tolerance, of these
cultures. Intercultural education aims to go beyond passive
coexistence, to achieve a developing and sustainable way of
living together in multicultural societies through the creation
of understanding of, respect for, and dialogue between the
different cultural groups.
Ref: UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, 2006, p. 18.
Interculturality – beyond the ‘fish-bowl’ mentality
Cultures are rarely discrete in a globalised world. The focus
needs to be on change, dynamic cultural interaction and the
implications of that.
• Interculturality is a dynamic concept and refers to evolving
relations between cultural groups … Interculturality
presupposes multiculturalism and results from ‘intercultural’
exchange and dialogue on the local, regional, national or
international level.
Ref: UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, 2006, p. 17.
Intercultural understanding and language
• Intercultural communication – Effectively and appropriately
communicate with people from different cultures, characterised by
interpersonal skills, cultural uncertainty and cultural empathy.
• Intercultural language learning – Learners
understanding of
their own language(s) and culture(s) in relation to an additional language
and culture, allowing for dialogue, negotiation and self-reflection.
• Personal example – meaning of home, homeland,
citizenship and belonging (rumahku, tanah air,
Intercultural understanding and language
• Possible without language proficiency but enhanced
greatly by language
• For example, rice in English vs. padi, beras, nasi,
pulut in (Malay/Indonesian)
• Importance of quality language learning
• Importance of finding personal meaning in language
– Student engagement looks like, feels like, sounds like …
Australian Curriculum – Two entry points
Asia priority and Intercultural understanding side by side
Asia and Australia’s engagement with
Intercultural understanding
... students learn about and recognise
the diversity within and between the
countries of the Asia region. They will
develop knowledge and understanding
of Asian societies, cultures, beliefs and
environments, and the connections
between the peoples of Asia, Australia,
and the rest of the world.
… sharing, creating and contesting
different cultural perceptions and
practices, and supports the development
of a critical awareness of the processes
of socialisation and representation that
shape and maintain cultural differences.
ACARA Intercultural understanding framework
Example: Learning that it
is considered rude in
some cultures to look
into the eye of someone
older when spoken to
Example: Interviewing
international students in
a school to find out about
their needs and using
data gathered to propose
changes to school
Example: Religious dress
and modesty guidelines
that impact on social
interaction & activities
Example: The meaning of
ANZAC day to Turkish
community and Australia
Day to ATSI communities
Intercultural education continuum
Stories and dialogue for Asia engagement
• Sharing and understanding stories
• Find your stories, find your own personal reasons
• My family’s migration stories – the leap of faith; the
fitting in; the challenges to engage; rediscovering
identity; facing stereotypes and prejudice
Stories and dialogue for Asia engagement
• What stories and experiences can we all share?
– Stories rather than formulaic approaches as the basis
– It doesn’t have to be Asia-specific! It can be any cross-cultural
• Asia literacy? Intercultural understanding?
– From literacy to capability – a personal example (An Asian
language speaking Asian born in Asia but …)
Moral purpose of intercultural engagement
• Mine is moral purpose of engaging positively with
fellow human beings regardless of race, ethnicity,
language, culture, religion and/or worldview, for the
advancement of humankind.
• What is it for you? Self-reflection is essential.
Intercultural Competences
The ability to interact effectively and appropriately with
people from other cultures. It refers to the four
dimensions of understandings, attitudes, skills and
behaviours. Key dispositions include:
Creative and critical thinking
Positive interaction
Relates to the Australian Curriculum general capabilities
What UNESCO says
Intercultural competences are abilities to adeptly
navigate complex environments marked by a growing
diversity of peoples, cultures and lifestyles, in other
terms, abilities to perform “effectively and
appropriately when interacting with others who are
linguistically and culturally different from oneself”
(Fantini & Tirmizi, 2006).
Ref: Intercultural Competences: Conceptual and Operational Framework, 2013, p. 5.
The Third Space Model
• The model proposes a safe space – such as the
curriculum/classroom – where people can explore
how their cultural beliefs and practices intersect.
• Everyone has cultural ‘baggage’ – students are
asked to focus on points of intersection and
acknowledge difference.
• Students can explore and maintain their own
identity whilst venturing into a new space that may
challenge their own ways.
• Dialogue not debate!
An example
• Let’s focus on the 2004 Asian tsunami.
• An Asia priority perspective would objectify the
tsunami – looking at statistics, aid, the who, what,
when, where and how…
• Intercultural understanding allows us to take this
further to develop perspective, empathy, respect and
the ability to reflect
• The Acehnese, for example, saw the event in a
different light, e.g. peace process and social capacity
What makes the Asia region ‘tick’ and why?
Do we see the
stereotypical image of
the Asian tourist, or how
they got there in the first
place as a people?
Image Jorge Royan
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable
It is at the edge of our comfort zones that true transformation occurs
Photo courtesy of Cassie Jai
To wrap up …
• Find your stories, reasons, and moral purpose.
• We need a moral purpose for widespread,
sustainable and meaningful change – policy is a
catalyst but we need more than that.
• Overcoming psychological distance is not always
about physical travel. It’s the travel of the mind.
• Given the right enablers people can change their
perceptions of Asia – knowledge on its own will not
do the trick.
To wrap up …
I leave you with these questions:
• What causes people to want to know one another
and communicate?
• Reflect on our own behaviours – what do we think,
see, feel and wonder when we decide to get to
engage with Asia?
• Then ask, ‘Is that being fair to our neighbours?’

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