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The Forum > Article Comments > In Indigenous communities it is all about the teachers > Comments

In Indigenous communities it is all about the teachers : Comments

By Kirsten Storry, published 2/7/2007

Teaching in remote communities is not for the inexperienced, although some may rise to the challenge.

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I fail to believe reports that 'quick fix' literacy programs delivered by inexperienced students who could fly in and out of remote Indigenous communities for a semester, can really make a difference in a durable way to the engagement of Indigenous students in English literate practices. This sounds like a 'Howard flies in the troops' solution.

There are many many questions to be asked of such programs - are considerations of how literacy is a socially and culturally situated practice given any consideration? Whose literacy is being delivered? Whose purpose does it serve?

The article is correct when it says 'In Indigenous communities it is all about the teachers' - how they engage with the community, their sensitivity and understanding of culture and language diversity, their ability to live and function well as an effective teacher in complex and hugely disadvantaged remote contexts. It is no place for inexperienced and culturally insensitive teachers.

Dr Jan Connelly

University of New England
Posted by Franny, Monday, 2 July 2007 10:30:46 AM
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I am very far away from being any expert on education, however...

Miners get paid very, very highly to live and work in remote areas. If there were another solution to attract people to work in the outback, the mining companies would have discovered it already. So it is the only solution.

Wages to teachers need to be doubled or even tripled city rates. Ditto police and nurses. Not just aboriginal communities, all remote areas.
Posted by Verdant, Monday, 2 July 2007 1:11:38 PM
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there are many ironies re education, the current federal government approach, and the rights of indigenous australian children to an education, and to access education. i have never yet met an indigenous australian parent who did not wish for her/his child to have a 'european' education and to access it. the problem is that racism exists within schools, militating against indigenous australian children's educational choices and chances. indigenous australian children have a right to have their own cultural identity affirmed through education. this can be done through two-way education - affirmation of cultural identity and cultural education, along with european education. for example, learning science in the bush through observing animals in their habitat and trees/plants etc in their native environment makes more sense than cutting up rats and rabbits in a laboratory. indigenous australians are often accused of being 'itinerant' or 'perpatetic' (and hence blamed for missing out, or their children's missing out, on education) whereas it is too frequently teachers in remote and country locations (for example) who are itinerant or peripatetic. many, many teachers do a good job, but some can use time in the territory to assist them in being promoted up the ladder - elsewhere. every serious and sustained effort to ensure indigenous australian children have their right to education affirmed through non-racist teaching and learning processes - applicable to both indigenous and non-indigenous australian children - deserves support.
Posted by jocelynne, Monday, 2 July 2007 1:20:56 PM
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franny asked above ""there are many many questions to be asked of such programs - are considerations of how literacy is a socially and culturally situated practice given any consideration? Whose literacy is being delivered? Whose purpose does it serve?""
Regarding 'Multilit' I could answer some of her questions. Multilit teaches students how to use the alphabetic code. This code serves the purposes of all persons literate in English. It has lots to do with social and cultural practices. Anyone who cannot handle the English alphabetic code in an English speaking society is seriously disadvantaged.
Posted by chipperfield, Monday, 2 July 2007 3:23:19 PM
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The real lost generation of aborigines is because of their parents. In the year of 2007, no one (whether they are black, white or brindle) can hope for much of a future if they canít read and write, and if aboriginal parents are not sending their children to school, then those parents are robbing their own children of any future.

It is also law in most states that you must send child to school until they are 16. So it is not a matter of teachers encouraging aboriginal parents to send their children to school. If aborigional parents donít send their children to school like every other parent has to, then they are fined like every other parent would be.

And if they didnít send their children to school after they were finned, then eventually their children would be taken from them as would be the case for any white parent.

The idea that the best teachers are sent into remote communities would only lead to teacherís not being good teachers, in case they are sent into remote communities (where they presently have to convince aboriginal parents to abide by the law and send their children to school like any white parent has to).
Posted by HRS, Monday, 2 July 2007 3:34:29 PM
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Kirrsten

Thought I'd inform you that a number of teachers teaching in the NT are in fact not teachers.

They just can't find enough teachers to go to the remote Indigenous communities. The NT have resorted to employing non-teachers, who are frequently university students deferring their programs for a year to work in the remote communities. They largely do a great job.

As far as intense literacy programs taking place over several hours per day, that's too much to expect students to sit still for such a long period of time if they've never done it before. And the problem with a lot of students with literacy skills is the lack of pragmatic skills, such as the ability to sit still, listen, concentrate. The pragmatics need to be addressed before learning can take place.

Also, I think it's a bit unfair to blame parents for truancy. It's a community culture. A parent can send their child off to school each day, even deliver them to the school gate, but there's no guarantee they'll stay there, particularly if their friends meet at the school and then take off. Students, unfortunately, can't be physically tied down.
Posted by Liz, Monday, 2 July 2007 9:25:00 PM
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