Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blended Learning Model for Remote Indigenous Education

The NT Department of Education has released a Draft Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory ( Bruce Wilson, 6 February 2014). The report proposes not teaching indigenous languages in schools and makes no mention of the use of computers for remote education. I suggest that use of blended learning, combining classroom and computer education, could allow for better education and support multiple languages at low cost, with educational and cultural benefits for the students.

Teaching Only English 

The report finds that "Indigenous students in very remote schools in the Northern Territory are already two years of schooling behind Indigenous students in very remote schools in the rest of Australia in their writing results".  The report notes that many NT Indigenous children enter school with little or no English. The report therefore focuses on English language skills. The logic for this appears flawed, in that the report says "English language skills and knowledge that underpin success in the western education system". This assertion is clearly false: western countries carry out their primary schooling in the primary language of the country, not necessarily English. The report does not support bi-literacy approaches to education, but fails to mention that it is common to teach both a national language and a local language in many countries, as well as multiple languages being provided in schools in other Australian states. The report does not address the cultural and human rights issues in proposing not to teach students their own language at school. Such an approach may be considered unlawful discrimination.

Distance education

The Report Overview says "Distance education will be an important element of this set of solutions: the current arrangements should be reviewed to ensure they meet the need" and makes one recommendation (15 e.) on DE:
examine the three-school distance education arrangement and current practice to determine how well they are suited to the changed secondary schooling arrangements proposed in this report.
However, the report does not appear to make mention of blended learning, that is using a combination of classroom and on-line learning. Nor does the report mention the One Laptop Per Child Program (OLPC), which has provided specially designed learning computers for students in some remote schools. The Australian OLPC program takes a different approach from countries where the computers are centrally issued by the education department, instead emphasising support for teachers (Howard & Rennie, 2013).


Howard, S., & Rennie, E. (2013). Free for All: A Case Study Examining Implementation Factors of One-to-One Device Programs. Computers In The Schools, 30(4), 359-377. doi:10.1080/07380569.2013.847316

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