Politics and Policy-making for Asia Literacy: The Rudd Report and a National Strategy in Australian Education
Henderson, Deborah J. (2008) Politics and Policy-making for Asia Literacy: The Rudd Report and a National Strategy in Australian Education. Asian Studies Review, 32(2), pp. 171-195.
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This article traces the origins and policy processes of the first national attempt to establish the study of Asian languages and cultures in the Australian education system. Asian Languages and Australia's Economic Future (1994), referred to as the Rudd Report, after the Chair of the Working Group that produced it, was commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in December 1992 to develop a strategic framework for the implementation of an Asian languages and cultures program in Australian schools. The Report’s aetiology stemmed from a Languages other than English (LOTE) initiative of the Goss Government in Queensland and was presented to the first COAG meeting as a model for what might be achieved at the national level in Australia at a time when the federal Labor Government mounted a broader policy push for national capacity building and engagement with Asia. This intersection of interests achieved what a succession of policy documents since 1969 had been unable to attain - political agreement at federal and state levels in Australia - for a national policy prescription for Asian languages and studies. The Rudd Report marked a significant juncture for Australia as it emphasised that second language provision has domestic as well as external considerations and that both were linked to Australia's geopolitical future in the Asian region. This paper argues that the decision-making processes which produced the Report and its implementation as the National Asian Languages and Studies in Australian Schools (NALSAS) Strategy in 1995, can be analysed from the policy literature to cast light on the nature of cooperative federalism in Australia. It also argues that Rudd's role as the principal architect and key protagonist of the report drew on the ideology of economic rationalism and the role of the rational policy actor. Yet despite this policy achievement and signs that this long term strategy was taking effect, in 2002 the Howard Government cut the Commonwealth's funding commitment and undermined Australia's first experiment in prioritising Asian languages and cultures in the knowledge economy.
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