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Incorporating Asian cultures into school curriculum

Glendowie College teacher Pritika Harduar talks about incorporating Asia content into her business studies programme. Mrs Harduar, who in 2013 attended the Foundation's Shanghai Business Forum, has developed a programme for her Year 11 business studies students to learn about Asian culture and business practices through running food stalls at a school market day.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation provided a grant that went towards printing posters to advertise this year's market day.

(continue reading below)

A girl dressed in a kimono standing behind a stall selling Japanese food.

Why do you think it is important for students to understand about Asia and the role it will play in their lives?

The increase in globalisation is making the workforce more culturally diverse, and the increase in global trade is presenting our students with opportunities related to Asia within New Zealand as well as abroad.

Given that the customs and traditions in Asian cultures differ vastly from that of New Zealand culture, it is crucial that we equip our students with the knowledge and experience, so they become more culturally responsive in these cultures. This will enable them to become better participants in, what may be considered an Asian Century.

The journey from Cultural awareness to cultural responsiveness requires time and multiple opportunities to gain experience.

What was the idea behind the Market Day – why did you choose it as a way to teach students about Asia?

The market day is an inquiry-based project where students investigate how to use their entrepreneurial skills to plan, carry out and review a business venture. This is tied with the Level 1 Achievement standard.  

To better prepare students to the ideas of cultural responsiveness that are covered in Year 13, I decided to introduce ideas of cultural experience/awareness in Year 11.

After trialling it for a couple of years at year 11, we developed a cultural journey inquiry project for Year 10 Enterprise in which the survey data indicated a lack of competency in Asian Cultures (China was ok but students lacked confidence in responding to other Asian cultures like India, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam).  Based on this, we narrowed down the cultural focus to Asia in the Year 11 International Market Day as this provided an opportunity to spread the awareness throughout the school.

Market days are highly anticipated events at our school and we have enormous success with at least 70% of the students going through the hall to check out market day stalls.

I also decided to focus proactively on getting the students to create the cultural posters that can be put around the school for more cultural exposure of the Asian countries school wide.

Can you briefly outline some of the things the students learned through the exercise?

a girls standing behind a table filling cups with chocolate sauce

Different students would have gained different experiences. The learnings could be generalised as follows:

  • It requires time and motivation to learn about a different culture.
  • One cannot judge a culture based on one or limited experience.
  • One cannot make assumptions based on what we think may be true.
  • Networking opportunities can start within classrooms.

How did what you learned on the Foundation's Shanghai Business Forum trip impact your teaching and influence you setting up the market day exercise?

It has a trickledown effect as during the Shanghai trip I was exposed to the importance of cultural responsiveness. Based on the experience, it provided me the confidence and allowed us as a school to take trips to China with students.

Listening to speakers at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's Shanghai-based business hub NZ Central validated the importance of cultural responsiveness and the immense opportunities available for individuals who are culturally aware.

This led to more meaningful and authentic discussion in the Year 13 business course and has allowed me to trial different ways of bringing cultural awareness at different year levels. 

Currently we have a Year 10 inquiry project based on cultural journey in an Asian country,  which initiated the idea of the Year 11 International Market Day with an Asia focus. This is tied in with the international languages week to make it more meaningful and the cultural responsiveness unit in Year 13 (assessed in NCEA standard AS3.2).   

Incorporating Asia Awareness into teaching/cultural responsiveness

A key message from Pritika is that learning about a different culture takes time and motivation. Including Asia content into teaching requires some thought and needs to be incorporated in a structured way, so doing some groundwork is important.

Here are some steps that Pritika took:

Step 1: Get parents on board

Getting parents onboard and understanding the purpose of including an Asia focus in your teaching is important.

 Send an email or letter out to parents informing them that you intend to teach/introduce your class to Asian cultures and that you might be pushing some of your students out of their comfort zone. 

See if any parents are willing to share some aspect of their culture with students.

Step 2: Hold a shared cultural lunch

Fortune cookies wrapped in cellophane with fortune messages showing

Hold a shared cultural lunch to provide students with an opportunity to try different foods and discuss stereotypes they have. 

Students can see the food, taste it and discuss how it is eaten. Talk about each dish, what it looks like, what it is made from, how it is eaten in the Asian culture, if it is similar to any other foods.

Parents may be willing to help cook some of their traditional dishes.

Step 3: Incorporate cultural elements into your classroom

Incorporating different cultural elements such as listening to different Asian music in class while your students are working, or watching YouTube clips or films is a good way of easing your students into learning about another culture. It also helps to familiarise students with distinct cultural art forms and they can identify differences and similarities between cultures. 

Step 4: Utilise Asian students

Students from Asian backgrounds in your class (or school) can share their culture with their classmates. For example, they could provide traditional dress, photos, stories and language tips. 

Step 5: Push students out of their comfort zones

Push students out of their comfort zones – this could be wearing traditional dress, doing K-pop or Bollywood dancing, and using greetings they are not familiar with.

Step 6: Share what your class is doing

Share what your class is doing – put up posters around the school, start a Facebook page or hold an event. This will introduce other students to Asia and help to encourage interest in the region and cultures.

Scaffolded learning is important to allow students an opportunity to slowly learn about a new culture.

Find out more

29 September 2017