Teachers of world history, geography, and culture have a remarkable opportunity to participate in seminars and study tours with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA). In addition to learning a great deal and becoming better equipped to teach about Asia with confidence and enthusiasm, those who complete these seminars earn points toward professional development, and receive both in-service credits and a stipend when they have completed the seminar. In some cases, teachers can earn graduate credits. Their schools also receive materials on Asia.
What is the NCTA? Begun in 1998, it is a multiyear national effort offering professional development for teaching about Asia, currently operating in forty-four states, with a projected lifetime of ten years. The consortium’s work is supported by the Freeman Foundation. NCTA seminars offer K– 12 teachers a way to engage in in-depth study of Asia while working with local scholars and resource specialists. NCTA seminars focus primarily on China, Japan, and Korea. Participants attend thirty hours of seminars, then have the option to apply for NCTA-funded study tours to East Asia.
The long-term goal of the program is to encourage permanent inclusion of Asia in the K–12 curriculum of American schools. The NCTA’s strategy is to focus on grassroots professional development, working directly with teachers at the local and school district level. This approach puts into practice research that has identified the critical role teachers play in educational change. Teachers with a sound knowledge base on a subject tend to spend more time and teach more creatively about it, regardless of what each state’s curriculum guidelines, standards, requirements, or textbooks include. If Asia is to find a place in American classrooms, teachers need to know about Asia and feel informed and motivated to teach about it.
Already, close to 3,000 teachers have taken NCTA seminars and the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic:
“Projects like this are great because many times textbooks are thrown at teachers and you are told to teach. This opportunity added to what I know and gave me new insights into how to better teach it.”
“Teachers want to be informed. We only teach what we understand and are comfortable with.”
In sum, it turns out that Asia, once you know about it, can fit in almost anywhere: “Before taking this seminar, I never even thought of putting Asian studies in my courses. Now I’m looking for opportunities to bring them in.”
“This [Asia] is so important! Why didn’t anyone tell me about it before?”