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Canadians lack 'Asia competency'

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CANADIAN provincial governments must do far more to promote Asia in the Canadian education system -- but may lack the will, says a new report from the Asia Pacific Foundation.

The report says Canadian educational institutions need to be gently prodded and pushed to give a far greater emphasis to Asia in their curricula.

The report, released this morning, says 91 per cent of Canadian companies and organizations working in Asia who were surveyed "support Canada putting a greater priority on the teaching of Asian languages in the country's elementary and secondary schools.

"More than half (55 per cent) feel that additional resources should be directed towards including these languages in the curriculum, even if it means taking resources away from the teaching of other foreign or heritage languages," said the report.

The report said Canadians are sadly lacking in "Asia competency."

Companies "who employ Canadians for Asia-related work say they find it difficult to find qualified Canadians with the appropriate level of knowledge and awareness of Asia to help their organization succeed in the business they do in Asia.

"Asia practitioners' emphasis on education as a tool to enhance Canada's relations with Asian countries is tied to the idea that knowing and understanding other cultures and peoples creates greater opportunities for positive social, economic and political exchanges," the foundation says.

"The question is whether Canadian governments at all levels can develop the political will and sustain the necessary commitment to pursue a full-on, long-term Asia strategy."

The report says universities must see recruiting international students as more than a revenue source, and advises schools to increase their international enrolment significantly.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 3, 2012 B4

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