Aboriginal education — NSW and national perspectives

In her report to Annual Conference, Federation’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd respectfully acknowledged “our warriors, our fighters who have led the way and shared their stories and their wisdom in past campaigns”. She likened traditional Indigenous community structure to the tight-knit solidarity of Federation — “our mob”.

Ms Emzin-Boyd praised the introduction of a new Centre for Professional Learning course for Aboriginal educators.

She spoke about recruitment of Aboriginal members to the union. Federation’s Annual Report states that Aboriginal recruitment and membership numbers are on the increase. In April, the union had 1158 members on the Aboriginal Members Roll, including 222 Aboriginal future teacher student members.

“While Aboriginal members make up only a small portion of Federation’s overall membership, their activism rate is disproportionally high,” the report says.

National perspective on Aboriginal education

The AEU’s Aboriginal Education Officer, Nicole Major, addressed conference on national perspectives on Indigenous education, focusing strongly on Direct Instruction, a fully-scripted literacy and numeracy program imported from the United States.

Ms Major said NSW was yet to have Direct Instruction implemented in schools but if the Federal Government had its way the program would appear sooner or later in NSW schools with a concentration of Aboriginal students in this state.

She had spent the past fortnight touring Cape York schools, interviewing teachers about the implications of the program, which mandates that teachers cannot deviate from a script and must use set verbal and hand signals to teach.

Ms Major found teacher proficiency and skills were being undermined by the program, and there was a reduced sense of fulfilment in being able to engage in a child’s learning because of its scripted nature.

There were real concerns about the breadth of curriculum with just one non-compulsory hour being given to areas other than literacy and numeracy.

As well, the AEU officer said, a class could be struck on the same lesson for days or weeks. “How many teachers would want to turn up at school day after day and teach the same lesson?” she asked members. “Can you imagine how many students would want that?”

Ms Major said she was baffled by the fact that a company that had been in operation in Australia for about three months had received a $22 million tender for setting up Direct Instruction in schools.

On September 15, an Aboriginal Action Day will be held to celebrate and publicise good things happening in Aboriginal education and positive benefits of the Gonski campaign, she said in closing remarks.

NAIDOC Week is being celebrated 5–12 July 2015.

Originally published at www.nswtf.org.au on June 28, 2015.

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