Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled a plan Sunday to promote “Asia literacy” as part of broader strategy to steer Australia towards becoming one of the world’s top 10 economies in the next 13 years by boosting ties with Asian countries.

The key strategy, titled “Australia in the Asian century”, seeks to create online partnerships between Australian schools and their counterparts in China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and India.

“I’m going to put access to Asian languages at the centre of our national school improvement plan,” Ms. Gillard told ABC radio. Australian students would have “priority” access throughout their schooling to Asian languages such as Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese. Ms. Gillard also pledged a “far broader and far more systematic” approach to Asian language learning and vowed to link every school with an Asian partner by 2025.

“The capacity for Australians to build deeper ties with Asia will be hampered if there is not an increase in proficiency of languages other than English,” the policy paper stated. “Proficiency in more than one language is a basic skill of the 21st century”.

The strategy also highlights the role of a massive national broadband network, working to connect 93% of homes to high-speed Internet by 2017, in linking Asian classrooms, Ms. Gillard said.