Mother Tongue Education for Indigenous Students

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/04/01/calls-increased-mother-tongue-education-indigenous-school-students

This is an article that is part of a series of 5 about bilingualism and language education in Australia. It relates to the topic of Aboriginal Languages in Education, in particular to the use of native languages in schools to enhance learning for Aboriginal students.

It brings to light two of the issues that indigenous children face when they go to school which include not being able to fully participate as they don’t understand the language being used and further loss of their native language.

Three different language situations are considered. There is the child who speaks a traditional Aboriginal language, the child who speaks Aboriginal English or Kriol and the child who doesn’t speak a traditional language but would like to learn one.

The first two language situations are ones in which the child could become disengaged from their education if everything is taught in English. They don’t understand what is being said, and without support, they are unable to fully participate. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and that they are not clever enough to succeed and further distancing from education.

The third language situation makes us consider further language loss if the education system is not supporting the maintenance of Aboriginal languages. The child who wants to learn their native language is not learning it at home so it may only be through school education that they might have a chance to do this.

Ensuring that Aboriginal children are able to be educated in their native language or have access to a second language program in their native language seems to be what is required. In February of this year $20 million was committed by the Government to Indigenous language preservation and some of this needs to be used to train Indigenous speaking teachers and provide support to schools.

According to the article, the education system in the Northern Territory already provides this support to students, but this article is a call for more to be done on a national level.

Rosemary Fuller

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