October 28, 2008

Bad and ridiculous news from the NT Minister for Education

Anyone involved in NT Education or Aboriginal languages has probably heard this already, but a couple of weeks ago the NT Minister for Education released this, which says that the first four hours of education in all NT Schools will be conducted in English.

Obviously this is bad news for any communities who want to maintain or revitalise their own Indigenous language in their own school (before lunch, that is). It is particularly appalling for all those involved in bilingual education - programs that help students engage with their education, including English, by delivering it in their first language (while they are young and haven't learned much English yet). The bilingual programs actually produce better-than-average results in terms of English literacy, especially when they're done well. So does the Minister invest in them further? No. It looks she wants to scrap the whole thing. How ridiculous to think that non-English speakers will learn English purely by immersion. If that was true, anyone who watches Home and Away every day should be fluent English speakers, but it's just not that easy. It helps greatly if someone explains things to you in your own language - especially when you're still learning... especially when you're, like, five.

What a joke.

I'm especially appalled because I firmly believe (as does the United Nations) that Indigenous people, just like anyone, have the right to be educated in their own language, if they choose. How dare the Minister take away this basic right and dictate that only English be spoken for the first four hours of delivery in ALL NT schools.

So yes, I'm appalled and disgusted. I'm drafting a letter to the Minister as are many others. I'll post more about it soon.


Herr Anonym said...

There are also big cuts to the language and culture capacity of the Education Department to be announced soon.

Have a look too at the 'discussion' paper for outstations - what is publicly admitted is no funding for new outstations. There will be'review' of current outstation funding, which will most likely result in big cuts. This will affect outstation schooling, don't you doubt it.


The barbarians are at the gates....

Perez said...

@ Herr anonym: The barbarians have been *inside* the gates for some time.

Transient Langs and Cultures has posted the minister's email address if you want to write to her:

Anonymous said...

Burlanjdjan Maïa said:
I agree, it's just incredible. Sometimes you wonder whether people who make such decisions have actually met a single child from an Aboriginal remote community in their whole life. It makes my arms fall off from me, as we say in French...

bulanjdjan said...

Burlanjdjan Maïa: The NT Education Minister is Aboriginal, which makes it all the more arm-falling-off.

Hooch said...

How ridiculous to think that non-English speakers will learn English purely by immersion

Immersion is all well and good, I say. It's definitely how I learn language best. Don't get me wrong: I don't think it's the only way to learn language, and I think it is ideally complemented/supported with formal education about the language in which you plan to be immersed. What is ridiculous is that people think one gamen munanga at the front of a class room = immersion. The whole point of immersion is that you are immersed. Hey, your classmates speak Kriol, your shop keepers speak Kriol, your footy coach speaks Kriol, your bible is read to you in Kriol, your parents speak Kriol, your grannies speak Kriol, but you have to sit down and engage in this random class in a second language which one person in the room speaks! I know this is a slight exaggeration, as there's generally more than one English speaker in a community, but they are certainly in the minority. Oh, I hear bathing in a raindrop is an effective method of ablution too!

Besides, if immersion was so an effective way for learning language, why aren't all the community munanga fluent in Kriol/[insert community language] yet?

Wamut said...

Good point Hooch,

I should have distinguished between 'immersion' in the colloquial (which is what I now realise I meant) rather than 'immersion' as in the language teaching technique, which is more than just listening to a language. Immersion programs would be pedagogically sound and designed to introduce the right level of language at the right time and designed to teach specific structures but all through immersion, does that sound about right? This is what I aim for when I help with Indigenous language classes - immersion, but targeted immersion - using appropriate structures and routines that are suitable for where the students are at.