Professor Christie criticised the current trend to require aboriginal students to use English for a specified period per day, driven by the requirement to meet nationally standardised test requirements. He instead described a process where students create the content for the curriculum based on recording local knowledge. He also said there were a lot of good funded projects in community centres and libraries, using mobile and digital technology. Also some linguists at the NT Department of Education may be used to adapt some indigenous materials for teaching. Professor Christie said that many within the Department of Education were unhappy with the direct of new policies which minimise aboriginal language.
Another aspect mentioned was the role of aboriginal teachers in teaching subjects such as mathematics in a way the indigenous students could relate to.
This was an inspiring presentation and one where some of the setbacks due to Northern Territory and Australian Government education policies policies were looked on with sadness, rather than anger. This is all the more remarkable as academics in the field of indigenous education are expecting an epidemic of youth suicides due to the new government policies.
Recently I have been looking at the use of computer for education in remote indigenous communities in Australia and Canada. Perhaps there are some lessons for Australia which can be learned from elsewhere. During the discussion this afternoon, comparisons were made with Canada, where 30 times as much was spent on preserving indigenous languages. One positive point was the role of universities.
Sharman Stone MP,, Member for Murray officially launched the new archive. She was deputy chair of a parliamentary committee which produced ‘Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities’ (2012). She commented that one problem was where the language the students actually speak is ignored and they are taught as if they spoke English.