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Access Asia: 3 Volumes

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Impressions (lower secondary)
49 PAGES, ISBN 1-86366-415-7
Reflections (middle secondary)
66 PAGES, ISBN 1-86366-416-5
Dimensions (upper secondary)

81 PAGES, ISBN 1-86366-417-3
By Anthony Bott, Lee Grafton, Carolyn Millard and Doug Trevaskis

The Access Asia project has produced a new trilogy for lower (Impressions), middle (Reflections) and upper (Dimensions) secondary school students. These volumes, dealing with Asian themes, represent a timely resource. With cultural studies back on the school curriculum and interest in other cultures at an all-time high, the publication of these books is particularly welcome. They will be useful to teachers of Asian studies, languages other than English, and English as a second language, as well as to the English teacher.

The written and visual texts are quite distinct in content, mood and style, each giving a different perspective of issues relating to cultural diversity and interaction. They reach across the curriculum, complementing the Curriculum and Standards Framework and the National Profiles’ eight learning areas.

Many Asian writers in a postcolonial era tend to center on either the migrant’s trials in a host community or focus on oppositional cultural values. The extracts offered here are different; they move between traditional cultural worlds and the contemporary experience, providing a record of the many experiences and issues which confront all of us in everyday life within the context of a culture, a time span and a society. As the authors comment, “Images of Asia portrayed on Australian television tend to focus on underdeveloped rural life, crowded bustling city life, or human or natural disasters. Which is the real Asia?”

The full coursework is based around 17 units, and there is a nice sense of progression both within each unit and over the whole series. Several units deal with literary themes, and all suggest activities ranging from talking points and close reading to writing options and investigations. But the stunning illustrations in the ‘Visiting the Visuals’ chapters captured my eye and the immediate attention of my students. These range from beautiful reproductions of Rama and Sita, Balinese paintings, and Indian miniatures to contemporary cartoons from Hong Kong. This quality black-and-white format with a dramatic full color insert is designed to match students’ interests, and gives this series instant appeal.

There is also an overarching unity in the series inspiring confidence in its use and effective balance of the diversity of authorship and approach. The range of source material is quite impressive, drawing on film and media ideas as well as written texts of all styles, including in the latter category such moving pieces as Kishwar Naheed’s poem, “I am not that woman,” Ku Sang’s “Wasteland” poems, and Brian Caswell and David Phu An Chiem’s “Toan’s Story.”

Alternately, such pieces as “The Gossamer Years” with its diary description of travel and the Japanese countryside written by a tenth-century noblewoman of Heian, certainly highlight the originality of the authors’ choices. These distant worlds of rituals, rules and etiquette governed by interpersonal behavior are old fashioned worlds to today’s mind, and yet the reader comes to understand the way of life and what it represented. All the extracts are concise and should therefore lend themselves easily to exploration within a single lesson.

Another interesting and useful inclusion in the series is a progression of chapters about memoirs and reports. Report writing is a necessary skill in the modern world, and my students were interested to learn this was so even in ancient times, with examples from China, Japan, Laos and India, among others, showing a long tradition of report writing. The chapters also highlight the diversity of cultural, economic and political conditions, and I have used them to good effect in my classroom.

This collection will prove a very practical addition to any department’s stock; certainly it broadens the range of texts available and presents students with an original and stimulating experience of Asian writing.

This is a curriculum based in the real world of discourse. It is multidisciplinary, accessible, and lucid in layout and articulation, with some of the most beautifully presented pages I’ve seen for many years. Students will surely gain an appreciation of textual presentation as well as enjoy the beautiful photographs and graphics. An excellent and thoroughly useful resource.

Throughout May, AAS is celebrating Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Read more