Aboriginal Education, Education and Language Instruction

Language teaching and home-based education

An important Bible verse that has influenced my thinking about education is found in the Book of Esther.  I wrote it in my journal on Monday 26th December, 1983.  The verse says:

“… every man should be the master of his own house, and the one who speaks in the language of his own people” (Esther 1:22).

I think of places like Fiji, and the nation, after colonization, was encouraged to keep their native language strong.  This means that in Fiji, children are educated in Fijian, but also are educated in English so that the Fijian nation can maintain communication with the rest of the western world.

However, in Australia, there is a perennial resistance to the teaching of traditional Aboriginal languages in our schools.  Very few mainstream schools teach an Aboriginal language as an elective – I do know of a Christian school in Victoria that teaches the Warlpiri language.  And the attempts to teach Aboriginal languages in Northern Territory schools have been repeatedly sabotaged.

I have developed a colour-coded phonics program for the teaching of Warlpiri literacy.  When I trialled the system, the anecdotal evidence was that it made the teaching of the language in a formal setting a lot easier.  However, my efforts were resisted, and eventually all the resources that I developed were thrown out of the school.

It remains my burning conviction that every man should be the master of his own house, and that his children should be educated in the language of his own people.  Language diversity was originally a curse, but the curse can be turned around and made a blessing in Christ Jesus.

Every language has the capacity to preserve knowledge sets that are just not as easily preserved in other languages.   With the loss of languages around the world, there is a corresponding loss of important knowledge and data.

This is where home-based education is important, and marketplace diversity in the sourcing of educational resources is critical.  Such educational liberty does not necessarily make any multinational companies meg-rich, financially, but it does make a community profoundly rich culturally.