Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Indigenous Education

Indigenous education has for a long time, been a worrisome issue in this country. It is of utmost importance that teachers strive to bridge the gap between indigenous understanding in the non-indigenous population.

Uncle Ernie’s framework is an excellent beginning towards embedding indigenous perspectives into an indigenous learning situation. I am a huge supporter of the holistic approach to education and only wish it could be incorporated more into the traditional western method of teaching.

Uncle Ernie’s framework and related materials should become part of the teacher training in all University courses in Australia. Improvements will only come through teachers being made aware of the desperate need for them and being willing to undertaking a program of change, which will involve more work on their part. The teacher is central to the success and transformation here.

Non-indigenous students have much to gain by learning and understanding more about the culture of their indigenous friends. This understanding would help to improve racial and prejudice issues in Australia, and give our young people the tools to make the changes in the future. This understanding would enrich their lives and help to bring indigenous and non-indigenous people together.

Chris Sarra is a perfect example of a teacher who affected change and proved to Australia what could be done to turn around a situation viewed by many, as hopeless. He implemented the ‘Strong & Smart’ program at Cherbourg State School and undertook a program of reversing the thinking that underachieving was a means of fitting in.

Student’s thinking was that to be Aboriginal, they needed to ‘aspire downwards’. Of course this program was not to everyone’s liking, and many teachers left the school in the first year. That exodus provided Sarra with the opportunity to find teachers whose thinking was more in line with his own.
He was able to construct of group of likeminded people with the same goal - successful outcomes for indigenous children.
But as he said there is no miracle cure, just “hard work and attitudinal change”. A strong and positive sense of what it means to be Aboriginal in Australia today is the precursor to good academic outcomes for the future.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs comes into play here, as often the basic needs of indigenous children are not being met. How can an Aboriginal child even begin to think about learning without the basics of food and a safe home?
These are two elements which are commonly absent from an Aboriginal child’s daily life.
Maslow also stressed that self esteem develops only when we are anchored in community- an assurance of our own worth as individuals ( Kunc 1992).Chris Sarra achieved this, as once the students need for self esteem had been met, they were able and keen to achieve in school.

Students need to believe in themselves and have those around them believe in their abilities before they can hope to start achieving.
Sarra's won’t -take- no- for- an -answer attitude changed the outcomes for students and gave them the promise of a future, unheard of prior to this program.

There is much for teachers to learn from Sarra’s hard work and achievements, but courage is required to implement this learning into schools today.

There is still a lot of resistance to change in schools and many of the ‘at risk’ students at my teaching school are indigenous. Their disengagement is reflected in their behaviour, but nothing is really being done to cater for their needs.
Teachers are at the frontline in this situation and are armed with the tools for change.
E learning could open up a wonderful new world for students in indigenous communities, it would not only deliver the world to them, it would provide them with engaging methods of learning.




Sarra, C. Strong & Smart (2003) Viewed August 19, 2009

Grant, E. (1998) My Land My Tracks: A framework for the holistic approach to indigenous studies. Viewed August 18, 2009.

Kunc, N. (1992) The Need to Belong: Rediscovering Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Viewed August 18 2009 http://www.normemma.com/armaslow.htm

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