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 communities.
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.