Inclusive Education in secondary schools

“Embedding Australian Indigenous knowledge” and pedagogies in early childhood education

The Anglo-European schooling system is one with advantages to the students undertaking the courses in Australia. However, this system comes with immense demerits since it requires these Aboriginal children to leave their cultural assets every time they enter their respective schools. After over a decade of government failure to reduce the gap on education results for these indigenous students, urgent work is needed to address the various challenges and to inform the curriculum and the pedagogical reforms of state and the federal jurisdictions. As a matter of fact, the above mentioned challenge is not unique to the Aboriginal communities in Australia. With the global population movements, classrooms in Australia are becoming more diverse and inclusive.

The recent changes in the education sector, especially the rolling out of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in 2011 and the progressive implementation of the new Australian curriculum since 2014 has exposed the trainers to the various cultural aspects and empowered the teachers to respond to the cultural diversity portrayed. Yet while ostensibly promoting cultural inclusion, Australian educational policy approaches are in reality directed toward assimilation, standardization and a narrowing focus on the measurement of prescribed Eurocentric learning outcomes.

Culturally responsive pedagogy, an approach that originated in the context of African American educational disadvantage, has shown promising outcomes among marginalized student populations internationally, yet has received very little attention in Australian educational policy or practice. This essay therefore focuses on explaining why it is vital to include responsive pedagogies to the education system especially early childhood trainings within Australia. For the purpose of this essay, a responsive pedagogy is one that actively values, mobilizes resources, encourages cultural repertoire, and gathers intelligence from students to create a thriving environment and learning relationships.

“Embedding Australian Indigenous knowledge” and pedagogies in early childhood education 3
For over decades, the Aboriginal and Torres strait islander people offered education to
their youths through ‘ancestrally perfected means of learning’ (Yunkaporta, 2010 p48). This
approach is lauded for its great success rate and the good results it has achieved thus far. The
education methods used were tailored in such a manner that they ensured that each generation
was well equipped with the relevant knowledge, beliefs, and practices that made it possible to
prevail in almost all types of ecosystems (Price 2012b; Rigney, 2002).

While it can be very tough to plan and deliver services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, and communities it is critical for the practitioners and policy makers to approach the matter with regard to the society’s historical, social, community, family, and individual perspective. Besides, the Australian indigenous cultures are not homogenous and they can vary considerably from
community to another. The communities often are diverse based on various demographic features such as geographical location, with significant variation such as urban, rural, and remote communities (Neckowaya, Brownleea, and Castellana, n.d).

Some of the approaches used to offer support to these indigenous families include working with them rather than working on them, ensuring the services offered to the society is culturally competent, focusing on attracting and retaining the right staff drawn from these communities, growing the networking portfolio, and adopting an action research approach. While the indigenous families of Australia face immense challenges, their strength and resilience is greatly hampered by historical and ongoing dispossession, marginalization, racism, and the legacy of past policies of forced removal and cultural assimilation (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1997). A lack of appropriate infrastructure has compounded the challenges experienced in these communities such as poverty, unemployment, violence, and substance abuse.

“Embedding Australian Indigenous knowledge” and pedagogies in early childhood education 4
Owing to the various challenges highlighted above, it is critical for the education system
in Australia to conduct the early childhood classes for the indigenous students through various
modes such as through managed learning environment, teaching subject-matter content through
learning trajectories, using tiered intervention approaches, using a mix of instructional methods,
and using interdisciplinary approaches to instruction. For instance, managing the learning
environment would include controlling critical components of the context in which young
children are taught. The physical environment for example, learning material, time structure,
among others (LePage et al., 2005).

Despite the fact that majority of children are always eager and ready to study, many of early childhood trainers are not always prepared to engage the child in subjects rich with content which can affect their success levels later in life (Clements and Sarama, 2009). It is therefore important to engage the students at this level with quality responsive pedagogies to help shape their future and influence their success in life.

The communities understand better some of the materials that are relevant for their children and will preserve their cultural heritage. Decisions on what subject and content should be prepared in collaboration with the community, families, and leaders from the aboriginal groups of Australia. This approach will ensure the education sector enjoys the support of the leaders and the society at large. Additionally, the approach will be critical in having a sustainability approach as opposed to imposing the westernized culture on the aboriginal communities. When policies are imposed on these communities, often they are countered and they do not deliver the anticipated results.

“Embedding Australian Indigenous knowledge” and pedagogies in early childhood education 5

Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2003). Strip mining for gold: Research and policy in educational
technology—A response to “Fool’s Gold”. AACE Journal, 11(1), 7-69.
Home, B. T. (1997). Report of the National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander children from their families. Sydney: Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission
LePage, P., Darling-Hammond, L., Akar, H., Gutierrez, C., Jenkins-Gunn, E., & Rosebrock, K.
(2005). Classroom Management.
Neckoway, R., Brownlee, K., & Castellan, B. (2007). Is attachment theory consistent with
Aboriginal parenting realities?. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 3(2), 65-74.
Price, K., & Rogers, J. (Eds.). (2019). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education.
Cambridge University Press.
Rigney, L. (2002). Indigenous education and treaty: building Indigenous management
capacity.[Paper in: Treaty-Let’s Get It Right.]. Balayi: Culture, Law and
Colonialism, 4(2002), 73.
Yunkaporta, T. K. (2010). Our ways of learning in Aboriginal languages. Re-awakening
languages, 37.

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