I worked for eight and a half years in schools that were dedicated to delivering schooling to Australian Indigenous children. One of the perennial problems was getting the children to come to school, and then if they did come, get them to stay at school for the full day. Many children reacted violently to their experience of school and schooling, and it was not unusual to have a chair over-turned, obscenities shouted, or other similar displays of extreme behaviour. I have been spat on, kicked, accused of all kinds of physical contortions that are just not possible, and I believe that I was a well-liked teacher — at least that was what I was led to believe by the children outside the school context.
… the (Australian) education system played a central part in the colonisation of Indigenous peoples, by devaluing and apprehending the transmission of their cultures, knowledges and languages. This has led to a deep suspicion, shared by many Indigenous people, towards the ultimate goals and effects of mainstream schooling (Biermann, 2008, p. 28).
In my Master of Education (Leadership) dissertation I addressed the way that schooling has, to date, been delivered to Indigenous children and suggested that they would feel much more comfortable in an environment that reflects their Indigenous pedagogical heritage. I also argued that Indigenous pedagogies mirror cutting-edge, best practice pedagogies around the world.
A central component of Indigenous pedagogies is relationship. Learning that lasts does not take place without trust, perseverence, and a sense of purpose about it. It is not good enough to say that schooling will get you a good job. It doesn’t, necessarily, lead to a job, and generations of schooled (but unemployed) Indigenous people will testify to that. I would argue that it is an education that they are needing, not schooling: with its busy work, age-segregation, teachers who have no relationship with the family, centralised curriculum, bells, subject fragmentation, etc..
Home-based education has a lot to offer, and there is a need for much more research to discover why it is that many, if not most, home-based educators get it so right. Maybe the lessons we learn from the home-based education community will provide us some clues as to how we can do education much better for our Indigenous communities. My suspicion is that the findings will point to Indigenous pedagogies being used in the home-based education context as being an important contributor to the success of the movement.
We shall see.
Biermann, S. (2008). Indigenous Pedagogies and Environmental Education: Starting a conversation. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning. 4 (3), pp. 27-38.
Box, L.A. (2013). Warlpiri Business as Pedagogy: A Learning Journey. A monograph submitted as partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Education (Leadership), Moreling College (National Institute for Christian Education), Melbourne, Victoria.