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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.

Asia needs study

page 5

Asia needs study

Salient Reporter

"There Are several factors hampering a balanced approach to the academic study of Asia." Professor K. Janaki, Director of the Victoria University Asian Studies Centre, said this recently in her inaugural address, "Understanding Asia."

Professor Janaki told a near-capacity audience in the Easterfield lecture hall that one of the main difficulties of "understanding Asia" was the lack of opportunity for both Asians and non-Asians to study Asia. She said that even in many Asian countries the educational systems were geared to the study of countries and cultures far away from Asia. This has meant that many Asian students know more about other countries than they know about their own.

The serious study of Asia began with the emergence of nationalist groups in many Asian countries. Professor Janaki explained that this led to the formation of study groups where Asian intellectuals could study the historical and cultural background of their own countries and the problems facing their counties.

In Western and Asian universities one of the biggest problems facing the study of Asia is the shortage of funds available for Asian Studies. Professor Janaki said that although Asian Studies are a form of academic study. they are having to compete with older established departments for funds.

As a result, she said, Asian scholars, both in Asia and the West, have inadequate facilities available for a serious study of Asia.

Professor Janaki said that another serious barrier to understanding Asia is language. This is because so many words in Asian languages lend themselves to several different translations. She gave examples of some Chinese and Hindu words which cannot be accurately translated into any foreign language.

She also said that there is a real need to build up collections of more knowledge on all aspects of Asia. There must be a greater accumulation and dissemination of information about Asia. One way in which this can be achieved is through the translation of a large volume of literature in Asian languages. UNESCO is at present doing some important translation work, but its work is suffering from a serious shortage of funds. Another way is to collect more statistical information. The lack of this information is making it difficult for an Asian scholar to accurately evaluate his research findings. Much of the statistical information he requires is just not available.