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Voice of the Land - Volume 11

Our Languages Are the Voice of the Land

The FATSIL NEWSLETTER JUNE 1999
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CORPORATION OF LANGUAGES
VOLUME 11

No change from N.T. Govt. on education issue

THE Northern Territory Government is standing by its decision to phase out the Bilingual Education Program.

RESPONDING to the article "N.T. schools fight to keep bilingual programs" in the April issue of the Voice of the Land, the reply from the Department of Education says the decision reflects the Government's commitment to enhancing literary skills for students in the Territory.

It outlines the procedures that will be followed in implementing the changes, referring to a detailed process of consultation with every school and school community affected by the decision.

According to the Education Department's response, the task of preserving indigenous languages is seen as a community responsibility, and should not be left solely with the schools.

The letter from the Northern Territory Department of Education states:

The Government has made it clear that

  • Bilingual funds that employ indigenous staff will not be affected.
  • A detailed consultation process with every school and school community affected by the decision will take place.
  • There will be no change to the Program in 1999 - or to the position of anyone employed with Bilingual Program funds in 1999.
  • Longer term, Bilingual Program funding will be redirected to place an increased emphasis on English literacy and numeracy outcomes in Government schools.
  • Non-government school systems will continue to allocate their program funding in accordance with their own priorities.

Government will continue to support language and cultural programs in Indigenous schools.

The decision is underpinned by the following:

  • The Indigenous Assistant Teacher Program employs two hundred and fifty (250) assistant teachers in Northern Territory schools. These assistants are in classrooms to support and enhance the place of language and culture in schools. Aboriginalisation and local control of language and culture programs is still supported. This will be reinforced to communities during the Bilingual Consultation Project.
  • Cultural programs and Indigenous languages have a central place in everyday schooling for Indigenous students.
  • That every remote area school in the Northern Territory is a school which utilises English and vernacular language in the teaching process.
  • Vernacular language will be utilised by teachers, assistant teachers and community members as a language of instruction to support the teaching of literacy and numeracy skills in schools. Vernacular language will continue to be used to enhance student understanding.

To assist schools and communities with the decision, the Department of Education has developed a detailed consultation process that aims to:

  • Explain the necessary changes that will take place in each school program.
  • Consider and discuss with each school community its concerns regarding the phasing out of the formal Bilingual Program.
  • Discuss options and strategies focusing on how each school community can rearrange its programs and departmental resources to support numeracy, English literacy and local Indigenous culture and language programs.

The first phase involves senior departmental personnel visiting each of the communities affected by the decision.The main purpose of phase one is to:

  • Restate Government's decision
  • Receive school and community reactions
  • Present future career status for all current bilingual specialist staff
  • Outline positive initiatives supporting Aboriginal languages in schools throughout the Northern Territory beyond 1999

Establish the school's current accreditation period and discuss broad options post 1999.
The second phase is to commence late in Term 3, 1999 and will involve an advisory team visiting each school.The advisory team will be tasked with the following:

  • Assist each school explore and develop options to cover how the school can operate its Aboriginal languages and culture program and its English as a Second Language Program. Assist the school to revise its most recent Bilingual Schools Appraisal and Accreditation Report. The report will be used as a basis for developing its Action Plan for School Improvement to document the future operations of its Indigenous language programs given the changes to resource allocation. This will include changes to teaching time allocations.
  • Assist the school review and outline its English as a Second Language Program given changes to its languages model to include initial literacy in English.

Develop options for the best use of current resources and future project funding to support teaching of literacy and numeracy using local languages and culture programs.

Negotiate proposals for continued support for above establishment staffing.

Resourcing will be based on the school community committing itself to meeting negotiated outcome improvements in the following areas:

  • English oracy and literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Local language literacy as part of a language and culture program.

In all of the discussion and debate it is important to state that the primary goal of the Bilingual Education Program was about enhancing literacy skills.

The decision to phase out the Bilingual Education Program is about reaffirming this original goal. It is not about targeting Aboriginal languages as the cause of failure. The preservation of Indigenous language is a community responsibility and should not rest solely with the school.

The Bilingual consultation process is about confirming this shared responsibility"'

To enquire about participating with a display at the Expo, or attending workshops and forum discussions please contact Ysola Best, FATSIL Secretary on Tel 07 38078933. Fax. 07 38078922.

Photo:The Areyonga school community showed its support for bilingual education at a rally in Alice Springs last year.