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Reflections upon attending an indigenous world gathering for peace October 10, 2016

Posted by Editor21C in Community Engagement, Education and the Environment, Social Ecology, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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By Roseanna Henare-Solomona

 

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21s t Sep 2016 INDIGENOUS TRIBAL NATIONS – GATHERING

On International Day of Peace 2016,

INVITATION to all indigenous tribal nations, to participate in a world gathering of:
❣ Chieftain’s / Grandmothers convening in global council;
❣ All respective Indigenous Nations of Mother Earth tending sacred fires, on their sacred land with community.

In this sacred way for Mother Earth and all her children, in solidarity:

Kia Ora, Talofa, Malo e lelei, Nisa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Taloha Ni, Aloha, Fakalofa lahi Atu

———————————

Last month I participated in a delegation to attend this Peace gathering in Seoul Korea, and since returning to Sydney have decided to put pen to paper in an attempt to understand some of the outstanding issues raised by my colleagues in that forum. I also want to take a brief moment to present my own observations about some of the underlying problems to emerge when Non-Indigenous helpers attempt to organise Indigenous people.

Let me begin with two key issues discussed in depth during our assembly. The first was the degradation of papatuanuku, or earth mother, and the seas that surround her. On the very first day of discussions a representative from the Kiribati nation highlighted their plight with rising sea levels and the consequences of a sinking island or the loss of their home. He noted that this issue had been on the United Nations agenda for some time and wondered why very little had been done to date. The urgency, he explained, was such that my people are close to becoming like a homeless coconut floating in the Pacific Ocean.

I thought about my own home and what it might feel like to lose the place where we gather as a family to eat, laugh and love. My heart sank as I thought about the rising tides and the effects on the children and grandbabies of these Kiribati people. Actually, I could not even begin to fathom the loss to the families and the generations to come.

As the days progressed many more stories of horror and environmental destruction were shared. The Rena oil spill off the coast of Tauranga in New Zealand was another stand-out for me. The lack of accountability fuelled outrage, sadness and sometimes despair in me as the local people told of the lasting effects this oil has had on their food, water, health, and surrounding seas and land. And to think that the company pays a fine and then gets back into their boat and leaves the local people with an ongoing problem to fix.

This is outrageous! How can this occur? Corporate shipping companies who use our backyard as a highway to take their cargo from port to port with no real regard or accountability to the people whose lives depend on that sea and the land around it to live. It is ironic these companies are granted government approval to traverse our waters risking the food source and livelihood of many. Governments, in my view, are just as destructive and guilty as the shipping companies.

All that aside, my reflections about this dialogue and in particular, how it aligns with peace, left me somewhat perplexed as I struggled to find a composed resolve to an issue that forces such destruction on others. Moreover my intellectual brain started to think about the ongoing conversations we have in the academy; like the over production and never-ending need of humans to keep taking natural resources from earth mother, the sea and even our own species. I also thought about the people who are privy to knowledge about this global situation, and I realised just how vast the gap is between who know what is happening and those who do not.

This has left me in a state of continuous reflection and thought about how I may contribute, to at least let the people from the Pacific know what is happening beyond their beautiful paradise. The decision to write and tell this story is for now my resolve, and perhaps nowhere near as grand as a United Nations report, but at least it is a genuine attempt to make a change for the better.

The second and final issue I want to raise is the divide between non indigenous and indigenous peoples’ realities. This Korea trip taught me that we are still a very long way from understanding each other, because in some parts of the world there are non indigenous people whose intentions and purposes still operate within a bubble lined with romanticized ideologies. The thought that one can invite elders and leaders to travel halfway around the world where the biggest and strongest typhoon is causing havoc just a stone’s throw away from the gathering place is absurd to say the least.

And what about the missiles fired outward by North Korea only a few months earlier in the direction of Seoul? If that is not enough to get a person wondering, then how on earth does one respond to the hullabaloo antics of an organiser linked to the United Nations and academia who promises to transport our elders to the gathering place. Many travelled long distances and at their own cost to the allocated pick up point, only to be told at the 11th hour there is no plane. In my ‘cranky me’ voice I asked for a please explain. I soon saw how easy it was to disconnect an email, skype, telephone or communication link to suit one’s needs. It is these sorts of shenanigans that intensifies the divide between “us and them” and keeps the collective from bridging the gap in a time when there is an urgency to work together.

As I sat thinking about my world peace experience and the different emotions and lessons I found along the way, I can’t help but feel very blessed to have been taught by some beautiful grandmothers whose wisdom brought me full circle. They watched with great interest and curiosity as people including me shared stories of fear, frustration and despair. They listened with an open heart, and one by one each nanny spoke to an issue with clarity and wisdom. They also offered a solution to the problems we face. This response I shall ponder a little longer.

 

Dr. Roseanna Henare-Solomona is a sessional academic in the School of Education at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Listen with both ears. Deadly Aboriginal educators yarning up essentials for future success. October 19, 2015

Posted by sethuws in Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Shirley Gilbert

October 1st 2015 marked the close of a key meeting of the minds and the knowledge holders at the “Our Mob Teach” conference. Hosted and run by the More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI), this day marks the end of a four year undertaking to change the way we think about Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and the preparation of teachers for the future who will work with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

This meeting of the minds saw representatives from a range of key government stakeholders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers at all stages of their careers (current students, early and mid-career teachers, Deputy-Principals and Principals), as well as those of us working in the spaces of higher education and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) training. Part of the conference agenda for the two days was to make key recommendations back to government about how we create greater opportunities to produce more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers given MATSITI’s role in this space. This occurred under the leadership of BHP, as we in Aboriginal Education know them (Professor Peter Buckskin, Emeritus Professor Paul Hughes and the deadly Dr Kaye Price). BHP have led this space for more than three decades. Part of the operational focus of the two days was to hear about what our communities and people supporting us in the education space see as key yarns we need to turn into actions for the future.

OurMobTeach_sm
Speaker Mr. David Templeman

Sharing the raw realities was part of the conference. During day one of the meeting Mr. David Templeman’s presentation from ACDE stated that their own research found that today that universities are often viewed as being culturally unsafe spaces for many of our mobs and that many Aboriginal students leave their studies at critical points in their programs.

Knowing this, how important is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success for our mobs, when we know the key to our success is to have more Aboriginal teachers? When communities walk out of these institutions and do not return to their studies, this affects our capacity to grow as communities. How can institutions reduce these walking points? If we are moving to close the gap in ITE and increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander teachers, how and what do tertiary sectors need to change, operationally and relationally, about the way they engage with our communities?

As the key providers and administrators of educational training and ITE programs, how can we make universities the safe spaces that Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander future teachers want to interact with? Our communities want more, our young learners need more, our schools need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers as part of their staff, but all these spaces need to be safe. We know that generally these students rely of the ‘one’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Academic staff member to make their spaces safe – and often these academics are casually employed.

Pivotal to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students achieving success throughout their schooling is the effective preparation of preservice teachers (Buckskin 2015, Sarra 2014, Harrison 2011). Much of the conference heard the voices of future Aboriginal Teachers – many of them just about to embark into the profession – and what has resonated is how many of these young people spoke about cultural safety in their university experiences and the experiences that they have had during their practicums.

The need to develop deep understandings of how to meet the educational needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners is demanded by both policy makers and Aboriginal community (NSW AECG 2004, AITSL, ACARA, MATSITI and Ma Rhea 2012). The newly introduced accountability frameworks (AITSL, ACARA) provide some guidance for universities to prepare graduate teachers for the profession.

The Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) will now feed back to the Deans about how they might ensure their institutions improve their own spaces. We need these spaces to harness the challenge to become culturally responsive institutions which are strengths based, not deficit focused. These challenges to universities are not new, and the review undertaken by Behrendt (2012) focused on the specific barriers preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from achieving their full potential in higher education.

Key to the review discussions was the point that attitudinal changes were required in institutions, as well as the development and implementation of cultural competency training for all sectors involved with Aboriginal education and the teaching of Aboriginal content.

In one of the forums I spoke about the necessity for quality teaching which included the preparation of initial teacher graduates which understood our community’s needs, saying:

Our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities expect our local schools to be able to work with their children in effective and positive ways to achieve standards in education which are equal to all other students. They expect high quality culturally responsive teaching and learning which maintains cultural and community links that is seen as relevant and engaging.

At Western Sydney University the Masters of Teaching (Secondary) program will see the first group of forty preservice teachers to have experienced a unit (subject) titled Aboriginal and Culturally Responsive Pedagogies. I developed this unit in response to the new teacher graduate requirements – AITSL standards 1.4 and 2.4. The standards are designed to give graduates the capacity to “demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds” (1.4), and “demonstrate broad knowledge of, understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages” (2.4).

Much of the two days of discussions at the conference linked into the issues it raises for ITE providers. Many mainstream educational providers of ITE programs in Schools of education have very limited engagement with these requirement and many of the new career Aboriginal teachers had been challenged by the mis-information these units had tried to impart to them about Aboriginal histories and cultures.

Many more spoke about the challenges for them in their spaces not seeing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander academic in their courses. As the Academic coordinator, lecturer, tutor and initially the developer of a new unit at my university, other universities might also take up these challenges which are impeding their own successes creating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduate teachers. I am hoping that our graduates at this university, after undertaking a well-structured and culturally focused unit in a preservice teacher program, will be better equipped and able to work effectively with Aboriginal parents and caregivers to provide the required respectful partnerships which are absent of past histories and prejudices.

However, what makes a successful effective and inclusive institution? Can universities invest in the space which values community expectations about what is required? Universities Australia and all key stakeholders nationally will be soon be presented with MATSITI recommendations. How stakeholders listen to (and not just read) the document and then action these recommendations in their own spaces will be critical. Can we, as ITE providers, develop these educational spaces which not only deliver educational and professional success but also meet the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers? Some of this success could result from strategic employment in the institutions to make them more culturally safe.

So what is important?

To succeed we need to raise awareness about:
• How institutions can and will produce a well-trained culturally responsive teachers workforce.
• Developing a critical mass of full time Aboriginal academics in Initial Teacher Education teacher programs.
• Developing and monitoring Aboriginal core units in institutions which challenge worldviews about teaching and that are relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders future teachers.
• Developing Aboriginal teacher pathways which provide opportunities so that current teachers can return to higher degree studies and academic pathways.
• Developing and understanding the resilience factors ITE graduates develop despite the ‘white fragility’ factors in institutional settings.

Recommendations and actions that move higher education outcomes which can reduce the levels of racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can become effective teachers for their communities will be presented in a MATSITI report soon to all sectors.

References
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) http://www.acara.edu.au/default.asp

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) http://www.aitsl.edu.au/about-us

Behrendt, L. Larkin, S. Griew, R and Kelly, P.(2012) Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Final Report https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/heaccessandoutcomesforaboriginalandtorresstraitislanderfinalreport.pdf

Ma Rhea, Z., Anderson, P.J., Atkinson, B., 2012, Improving Teaching in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education: National Professional Standards for Teachers Standards Focus Areas 1.4 and 2.4, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, Melbourne Victoria Australia, pp. 1-77.

NSW Department of Education and Training and NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc, August (NSW DET & NSW AECG), 2004. The Report of the Review of Aboriginal Education Yanigurra Muya: Ganggurrinyma Yaarri Guurulaw Yirringin.gurray Freeing the Spirit: Dreaming an Equal Future.

Shirley Gilbert is a Gunditjmara academic working in the School of Education at Western Sydney University, Kingswood campus in the Master of Teaching (Secondary). She is currently undertaking a Doctor of Education (EdD) focussed on Aboriginal Education issues and the profession of initial teacher training.

Should Australian schools look to Finland? April 7, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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From Benjamin Jones

In 1988 Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the National Science and Technology Centre (now called Questacon) as part of the Bicentennial celebrations. Expecting a positive media story for the government, he was instead confronted by 200 protesters angry at budget cuts to science and education. Hawke conceded that the government needed to do more to ensure Australia becomes a ‘clever country’.

The ‘clever country’ has been embraced by subsequent leaders and in some ways, Australia has achieved this goal or at least is heading in the right direction. The proportion of Australians aged 25-64 years who hold a non-school qualification has increased from 46 percent in 1990 to 59 percent in 2006. Those with a bachelor degree or higher more than doubled from 10 to 24 percent over the same period.

Australia’s educational advancements have not been equitable with the primary winners being the non-Indigenous residents of major cities. While 56.9 percent of Australians in major cities hold a non-school qualification, this drops to 45 in outer regional areas and just 35.6 in very remote areas. This more than halves for Indigenous Australians at 14.5 percent. Even in major cities, the inequality is substantial with 37.8 percent of Indigenous Australians holding a non-school qualification compared to 57.1 percent of non-Indigenous people.

Like Australia, Finland also had an average performing education system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over a decade-long period, Finland transformed itself and since 2001 is has consistently ranked in the very top tier in all PISA assessments. According to an OECD report, Finland is now a ‘major international leader in education’. The crucial difference between Finland and Australia, however, is that the Finnish system has ‘remarkable consistency across schools’ and there is little variation between students from low and high socio-economic areas.

Educational theorist Pasi Sahlberg’s new work, Finnish Lessons, offers some insights into how Finland turned their education system around and how other nations might do the same. Firstly, Finland looked abroad for the best ideas and was flexible enough to adapt where better methods in other countries were producing better outcomes. Dovetailing this idea, however, is that Finland appropriated foreign ideas into a local setting. Good ideas were adapted and made Finnish.

The second key point is that Finland has a culture that respects teachers. Unlike Australia where some university chancellors want to do away with minimum requirements altogether, Finnish teachers must be high academic achievers and hold a Master’s degree. In return, teachers are well paid and resourced. In a recent TEDx talk, Sahlberg argues that Finland trusts the teaching profession and this trust is the foundational strength of the system. One of the ‘germs’ that is destroying modern schooling is the idea that schools and teachers must be regularly held accountable through standardised testing and inspections. He says the Finnish view is that, ‘accountability is something left when responsibility is taken away’. Teacher autonomy has been crucial in Finland’s success.

One final lesson for Australia is that the Finns do not have a two-tier system. Rather than a large disparity between wealthy private schools and an under-funded public sector, there is a strong cultural commitment to a large public system with high quality education offered to all. Australia, like the United States and many other nations has allowed education to become market-driven. Tertiary education in particular, is seen as a revenue-generating industry rather than a vital public asset. In Finland there is an inspiring, publicly supported, central vision of what good education should look like. This vision is linked to a commitment to social justice and equity for all regardless of wealth, gender or ability. As Sahlberg stressed to John Hattie when interviewed for The Conversation, ‘it’s an inclusive principle’.

In December 2011, the Gonski Review was released. The was the most comprehensive investigation into school funding for 40 years and it highlighted the gross inequalities in the Australian education system. The heart of the review was needs-based funding. In addition to a base level, schools would receive extra funding depending on size, location and students’ needs (factoring in social inequality). While the Gillard government negotiated six year funding deals with NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and introduced a needs-based system, the incoming Abbott government has only guaranteed four years of funding. It has also rejected the needs-based system as too ‘complex’ prompting a strong reply from the eponymous author, David Gonski. The campaign continues.

There is much Australia can learn from Finland if it wants to also be a world leader in education. It is imperative, however, that we move beyond the empty slogans of ‘clever country’ and ‘education revolution’ and put in place systems that will allow all Australians to have access to high quality education. The challenge is also to change the culture of negativity and present a world class education system as a vital national goal. This is not only a matter of social justice, it also makes economic sense for a small but wealthy nation. The Brookings Institute has researched the vast economic advantages of education. If Australia is to maintain its prosperity into the future, we should look to the Finnish example and ensure our education system is not only high quality but fair.

 

Dr Benjamin T. Jones is an adjunct research fellow in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and a sessional tutor in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney. He is also a graduate teacher from UWS’s Master of Teaching (Secondary) program.

 

The Yarramundi Lecture 2012 … Listening to Warren Mundine on education July 29, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics, Engaging Learning Environments, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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from Professor Steve Wilson

Recently I had the privilege of attending the 2012 Yarramundi Lecture and listening to Warren Mundine. The Yarramundi Lecture is an institution at the University of Western Sydney. Held each year in association with NAIDOC Week, it features a significant speaker each year who delivers a lecture on indigenous issues in Australia. This year, Warren Mundine spoke about his new project, becoming CEO of GenerationOne, a project established by Andrew (‘Twiggy’) Forrest and his wife Nicola with the vision of dramatically bridging the gap in indigenous education and employment.

GenerationOne

GenerationOne utilises a coalition of employers, corporations, government agencies and small and large business people who provide training and subsequent employment for indigenous young people. The training is tied to jobs, a fact Mundine emphasised as a crucial difference to other training approaches. Mundine’s belief is that it is through young indigenous people gaining, and remaining in employment, that increased equity for indigenous people will be achieved. He commented on other approaches to training that have supplied some indigenous people “with more certificates than a Harvard professor, but who have never had a job”.

Mundine spoke passionately about how building a culture and an expectation of work across generations within families can provide the crucial circuit breaker from unemployment and welfare dependency, to independence and prosperity. He drew on examples from his own family to illustrate the power of work in modelling expectations for indigenous young people.

In subsequent questions from the floor, Mundine was asked about the role of education in contributing to breaking the cycle of dependency. In one response, he pointed to the critical role that pre-school education can play in preparing indigenous children for school, particularly by providing them with the building blocks of literacy and numeracy. He expressed concern that even by five years of age when they start school, the literacy and numeracy levels of indigenous children are well behind the Australian average, and that this is then compounded in the school experience.

I asked him two questions on the role of education: “What is it about schools that we should address to help turn this problem around? And if we were to introduce one fundamental thing into our teacher education programs here at UWS to help, what should it be?”

In answer to the first question, he said that the issue which currently impacts on indigenous young people in schools, particularly secondary schools, is a “structural issue”. Too many indigenous young people are perceived as lacking in talent and potential and are placed into the ‘lower classes’ in schools. These students are not engaged, challenged or extended. By year 9, having come to see themselves as failures in the formal education system, they often want to, and do, leave school as quickly as possible. This increases their possibility of facing extended periods of unemployment or becoming welfare-dependent. Mundine drew on examples from within his own family, where people had left school early, only to later succeed in formal education. In one case, one of his family went from leaving school very early to gaining a PhD.

His answer to the second question was, for me, very compelling. From all the things he could have chosen as a need in the production of new teachers, he said: “They need to learn to inspire”. Clearly, for many young people in formal education who do not do well, their journey through education becomes one of increasing failure, an increasingly poor self-concept, an increasing alienation from education, and perhaps even a feeling of hopelessness.  In suggesting that our new teachers need to learn to inspire, I felt that Mundine was emphasising the importance of the teacher who can meet young people on their own terms, encourage them to believe in themselves and their capacities to achieve, in school and in life, and to teach them how to achieve.

Mundine’s views are supported by a great deal of research over the past 30 years. Good teachers believe in young people and help them to achieve. They bring high expectations of their students to their teaching – even to students who seem to be performing poorly or who seem disinterested in learning. This is particularly important when their students are indigenous young people who may not have experienced academic success either in their own schooling or that of their families, and who may not come from an embedded culture of employment in their families. There is a wealth of literature to suggest that good teachers, who bring these high expectations to their students and who are persistent in demanding them, do make an amazing difference to the lives of those young people. These teachers are, as Mundine suggests they should be, inspirational, and they lift their students to succeed.

I came away from the Yarramundi Lecture glad that I had attended, feeling that the GenerationOne project is an incredibly worthwhile approach to an intractable problem, and agreeing with Warren Mundine’s messages about schooling. These messages are critical for the success and achievement of indigenous young people. They are also highly important for any schools and teachers who engage with young people from all backgrounds who are marginalised by the current structures of schooling, and who may be limited in imagining what they can achieve in their lives.

Steve Wilson is Dean of the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney. His previous posts on this Blog site include contributions on school leadership and networked learning.

Mapping the early English speech of very remote Aboriginal children July 1, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Primary Education.
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 from Lawrence Kenny

“Dis one crying get football” (6 year old Central Western Desert child).

At first glance this description of a child upset because their football has been kicked into a creek on a family outing may appear clumsy and unsophisticated for a six year old speaker. However, for this very remote Aboriginal child this sentence is one of many milestones in their journey to becoming a competent and meaningful speaker of English. It is one of a number of major linguistic steps in their journey from being immersed and fluent in their own homeland Aboriginal language, to becoming a bilingual or multilingual speaker that includes English.

It is important to map the linguistic journey of these very remote Aboriginal English as Foreign Language (EFL) speakers as they are repeatedly identified and reported as having the poorest educational results of all Australian school children, yet they begin their Western education journey arriving at school being competent speakers of a very complex language system.

For many early childhood educators it is widely accepted that language is the key factor for all higher level cognitive functions and that language development and comprehension does affect the development of later literacy skills. As an early childhood educator in a very remote Aboriginal context for more than 7 years I have had the privilege of being immersed within a cultural and linguistic context unique within the wider Australian social milieu. During these 7 years I was involved for a year with the Indigenous Language Speaking Student (ILSS) program funded by the Australian Commonwealth Government. A major part of the ILSS program is the reporting and assessment of the English oral language abilities of 6 year old very remote Aboriginal children enrolled in the ILSS program.

During my year within this program it became apparent that there was no systematic or culturally appropriate method for the collection of English oral language data and, more disconcertingly, that no English oral language profile existed for these EFL learners. When educators and education systems within this unique educational context can understand and identify the development patterns and milestones in English oral language for these EFL learners, the better able all involved can cater for and to the education of these unique Australian EFL learners. 

It is important that education providers and curriculum developers in the Northern Territory and throughout Australia recognise that the education and linguistic contexts of very remote Aboriginal communities throughout Australia are extremely distinct from non remote Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities. This distinction is important as it recognises that very remote Aboriginal children are English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners as opposed to English as Second Language (ESL) learners. The term EFL is distinct from ESL as EFL learners are not immersed within the broader social milieu of the language being learnt, whilst ESL learners are surrounded by the social and cultural elements of the language being learned.

Unfortunately this recognition is not apparent with the consistent application of mainstream English as first language and ESL developmental profiles in the very remote Aboriginal context. The application of these developmental models or profiles creates a language disparity and a deficit model for the assessment of these unique learners. This leads to a dislocation or a content/context divide that does not recognise the appearance and consolidation of emergent developmental behaviours and indicators for oral SAE that are common to very remote Aboriginal school children in their first few years of formal Western schooling.

The application of these developmental profiles is problematic as they are undertaken in mainstream urban and/or rural communities where SAE is the taken for granted first language, and they do not include many of the emergent developmental behaviours and indicators that are the foundations of more advanced SAE speech.

As the Australian education landscape undergoes a dramatic shift towards a National curriculum framework, a part of this new direction in the Northern Territory is the introduction of the Diagnostic Net for Transition to Year 9 (NT DET, 2010) [now called by NT DET the Diagnostic for Transition to Year 2]. The language profile within this document identifies six areas in the development of SAE oracy and although comprehensive, this developmental profile clearly reflects mainstream education developmental profiles and does not encompass any early and emergent language behaviours or indicators. These early emergent language indicators are what many very remote Aboriginal students display in their first few years of school, and this is the content /context divide for these English as a Foreign Language learners.

The T-9 Diagnostic Net provides an incomplete view of the developmental process as it begins with a description of learners that have mastered the emergent SAE oral behaviours and indicators. For example, the Transition speaking and listening profile describes students as speaking in sentences of four to five words and that they are able to join these short sentences using the words and, or, but, and because. This is the ‘expectation’ for these students by the end of their Transition year, which is the first year of school contact for many of these very remote Aboriginal children who are at least five years old but no more than six years old (NT DET, 2010, pp.30-31).

After their first year in Transition children move into first grade or year one and are now in their second year of schooling. Table 1.1 outlines the expected “grammatical markers” and “little words” (NT DET, 2010, p.30) that students must be able to use by the end of this year.

Table 1.1 Grammatical markers and little words
Present progressive Driving
Plurals Balls
Regular past tense she walked
Irregular past tense broke, fell
Possessive daddy’s…
3rd person present tense regular he works…
3rd person present tense irregular she does
Contractions he’s…, she’s…
   
Little words a, the, is, am, are

NT DET (2010) Diagnostic Net for Transition to Year 9. The Continua. Oral Language Development in the Curriculum. Speaking and Listening (p.30).

 The Diagnostic Net T-9 Continua (2010) does not cover emergent oral development as it begins with Transition students being able to speak and link four to five word sentences together by the end of their first year of school contact. The Diagnostic net then sees students progress to year one or first grade and depicts students using grammatical markers for tense and contractions in their speech by the end of this year of schooling.

The anticipated developmental progression over the first two years of school envisions these very remote students acquiring the previously discussed oral SAE abilities, yet does not acknowledge that beginning learners of a second language need time for exposure and consolidation in the learning process that may begin with an extended silent period before moving through holophrases and into the stages of telegraphic speech in their use of SAE (Ellis, 2009).

To conclude, very remote Aboriginal children in the NT arrive at school with little or no experience with English and the application of mainstream and ESL developmental models in the very remote Aboriginal context fails to recognise that developmental profiles must complement learners to be useful documents for teachers.

References:    Ellis. R. (2009). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. (2nd Ed). Oxford. Oxford University Press.    NT DET. (2010). Diagnostic Net for Transition to Year 9. Retrieved on the 29th September from http://www.det.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/13969/DiagnosticNetT9.pdf

Lawrence Kenny has two degrees from the University of Western Sydney, graduating in 1998 with a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood), and with a Bachelor of Education [Honours 1st class] in 2000. Lawrence is currently enrolled in the School of Education’s PhD program and is conducting research on the development of Standard Australian English in the early school years in four very remote Aboriginal communities in the Central Western Desert region of the Northern Territory. Lawrence is an employee of the Northern Territory Department of Education and Training and has worked as a teacher and teaching principal in this context for more than 7 years.

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