[lg policy] Australia: Compulsory Teaching of English Reversed in Northern Territories

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 13 14:38:12 UTC 2012

Compulsory Teaching of English Reversed in Northern Territories

July 12, 2012

Margaret Florey, with the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity,
has passed along this encouraging message:

Yesterday, in a blog post on Crikey Ngurrju!Manymak! Pupuni! NT drops
First Four Hours in English policy, Greg Dickson broke the news that
the NT Department of Education and Training has finally reversed its
policy of Compulsory Teaching in English for the First Four Hours of
Each School Day.

Communities, linguists and educators have lobbied long and hard for
more than three years for the reversal of this retrogressive and
damaging policy. Greg Dickson, Piers Kelly, Jane Simpson and other
linguist commentators have written on numerous occasions about this
topic on Crikey (e.g. 4/5/12, 4/11/10) and the Endangered Languages
and Cultures Blog (e.g. 2/11/12, 31/8/11). AuSIL wrote many letters
and media releases, held public forums, and produced the “Indigenous
Languages in Education: What the Research Actually Shows” booklet.
Opposition to the policy was a strong theme in submissions to the
House of Representatives Inquiry into languagelearning in Indigenous

In place of the 4 hours policy, NT Ed has released a Framework for
Learning English as an Additional Language. The second policy point is
entitled “Home/local languages are valued”. It notes that “Programs
designed to deliver English literacy outcomes are inclusive of the
student’s home/local language and culture as agreed with parents and
communities. Home/local languages can and should be used where
appropriate to support the learning and acquisition of concepts. There
will be times, particularly in the early years, when it may be better
to introduce concepts using the home/local language. This is good
teaching practice and is to be encouraged. This is the Department’s
approach for English as an additional language learning and one that
is used across Australia and internationally.”

Point V continues “Some communities will identify a desire to have
their children learn to read and write in their home/local language as
well as read and write in English. The Department of Education and
Training values home languages and culture and will support
communities in this endeavor through the use of school facilities
after hours for cultural and language activities and within the
curriculum through language and culture programs.”

The Guidelines documents offers the advice that “Learning English as
an additional language is complex and multifaceted as different first
languages may present different challenges for teaching. The
complexity of the EAL process means that schools must choose
instructional approaches appropriate to the linguistic and cultural
backgrounds of the learners.” Further, “Instructional programs must
promote positive and accurate representations of children’s (and
families’) first language and cultural heritage”.

These points must offer encouragement to NT communities who have
keenly felt the destruction of language programs in their schools, and
the concomitant impact of the detrimental 4 hours policy on school
attendance and wellbeing within the community.

Congratulations to all who have fought so hard for this outcome! Much
work now lies ahead to rebuild programs and we wish strength to al
through the coming months.


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