Education systems must bridge Indigenous and Western worlds

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Tuesday, 9 Aug 2011


For immediate release: Tuesday 9 August 2011

Education for Indigenous students must complement, not overwrite, Indigenous wisdom and values, a Canadian expert will tell delegates to the ACER Research Conference today.

Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning Professor Lorna Williams, of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, will draw parallels between the education of Indigenous peoples in Canada and Australia.

“When an individual is embedded as a member of a dominant culture everything is designed to fit that cultural world. From this position of relative comfort, it is difficult to even notice that there are people who might have a different approach,” Professor Williams said, speaking ahead of the conference.

“The challenge for education systems, which are built on Western perspectives of teaching and learning, is to create spaces within these foreign and alienating environments that provide an opening to the Indigenous world,” she said.

Professor Williams said education systems should:

  • incorporate Indigenous ways of learning and teaching, such as songs and stories
  • reconsider attitudes to time and assessment practices that exclude Indigenous ways of learning
  • develop Indigenous students’ identity through programs that promote the cultures, knowledge, values and languages of Indigenous people
  • establish support networks for Indigenous students, including peers, mentors and elders
  • support Indigenous students through transitions between year levels, transitions to post secondary and from post secondary back to the communities
  • offer experiential learning, practicum and apprenticeships, and
  • connect learning to the community so that it is seen as purposeful and meaningful.

“Students must perceive their school learning as adding to their knowledge, not obliterating their own Indigenous wisdom and values,” Professor Williams said.

The ACER Research Conference 2011, on the theme Indigenous Education: Pathways to success, takes place in Darwin from 7 to 9 August.

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