Australia: Race Discrimination Commissioner labels bilingual education 'a success story'

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Nov 17 13:28:59 UTC 2008

Race Discrimination Commissioner labels bilingual education 'a success story'

Updated Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:12am AEDT

Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner says bilingual teaching
is one of few success stories in the recent history of Northern
Territory education.
Tom Calma says the Northern Territory Government is ill-advised to
implement restrictions on traditional language teaching in bilingual
schools. The new policy starts at the beginning of the 2009 school
year and states the first four hours of the school day must be taught
in English. Mr Calma says he shares the view of teachers at some
bilingual schools, that teaching with a focus on traditional language
is more effective.

"Look at the evidence both nationally and internationally that
children who are secure in their first language, progress much more
rapidly in their command of english and numeracy in latter years."  He
says too often Aboriginal communities are used as testing grounds for
failed educational policies.
"We have seen Aboriginal education as really a trial area where
various approaches are being tested and this has been going on for
decades," Mr Calma said.

"Nothing seems to stay in place, but a successful program like
bilingual education should be fostered. "There's research to the
contrary of what the (NT Govt) is implementing, and it is in their own
research."  The Commissioner will use a public lecture in Darwin
tonight to lobby for the retention of a focus on teaching in
traditional language. Mr Calma is accusing the Northern Territory
Government of a rushed back flip on bilingual education. He says he
cannot see what has prompted the radical policy change to limit the
hours classes are taught in traditional language .

"This turn around and the whole thinking up the idea in such a short
time frame really does smack of the way the NT intervention was
thought up in 48 hours." But, the NT Education Minister has defended
the policy change. Marion Scrymgour says the policy was formulated
over 12 months after a significant period of research and
consultation. She says the outcomes at bilingual schools are among the
poorest in the country. "We've got to stop having a segregated
education system," Ms Scrymgour said.

"There are some schools in our remote communities that have done badly
and that includes our nine bilingual schools. "Every Aboriginal child,
doesn't matter whether they're in an english only remote school or
whether they're in a bilingual school, every Aboriginal child is
entitled to one system that we deliver to the rest of the Northern
Territory," she said.
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