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[ Update: David Wilkins has just published an article W(h)ither language, culture and education in remote Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory? in the Australian Review of Public Affairs (October 2008) on the topic which is well worth the read as it covers some of the research into bilingualism, bilingual education and the cognitive advantages. Essential reading for people who want to base policies on evidence.]

Previous posts (here, here, and here) discussed the likely bad effects of the NT Minister of Education's proposal for Indigenous children to be taught English for the first four hours of every school day.

The Minister has now clarified this in Parliament. It's rather carefully worded, and doesn't mention the four hours proposal. It gives qualified support for Indigenous languages.

"Our schools will still be able to undertake Indigenous language and cultural programs and I emphasise strongly here that I am not removing the resources from our two-way schools. There will continue to be Indigenous teacher assistants working in partnership with the teachers in those classrooms in our very remote schools."

This is welcome, but it needs further clarification. Not "removing the resources" doesn't preclude "diverting the resources". An Indigenous teacher assistant could spend a lot of time photocopying English lesson plans, and no time explaining class material in an Indigenous language to children who don't understand English.


In the end I think it is all largely rhetoric. She makes a number of comments along these lines:

"There will be a continued support for the development of resources to teach language and culture, but there has to be a greater emphasis on English."

Really - apart from the few two-way schools - all schools are English-only with no Language and Culture program at all. In this respect, there is no way you could increase the English content except to not have an ILC program.

She also encourages communities to continue teaching children language and culture which misses the point that mainstream education uses 6 or more hours of their children's time a day. And in the case of high school, actually takes all of their time except holidays.

What many communities are asking for is a slice of that time back.

Some welcome suggestions from DET though:

1. Teachers doing Culture Awareness courses

2. Teachers being trained in ESL

I am interested in outcome for beginning of school 2009, would you be able to provide any further information or leads?

Joining Friends of Bilingual Learning, http://groups.google.com.au/group/foblmail is probably a good place to start for news on what’s happening in the NT.

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