Education Department pushing for number of schools teaching First Nations languages to exceed 100

What a waste of effort! What does it achieve? Very undesirable if it derails students from learning a European language such as German, French and Italian. That would cut them off from vast cultural heritage. I have gained hugely from my studies of German and Italian

The Department of Education is pushing to increase the number of Queensland state schools teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and more than a hundred state schools are primed to jump on-board in the coming years.

According to the most recent department data, current as of February 2022, only five state schools teach First Nations languages – Mabel Park State High School in Logan, Mossman State School in the Far North, and Tagai State College’s three campuses in the Torres Strait.

However, in early 2022, the Department of Education launched a dedicated program to help schools with extra resourcing in co-designing and delivering First Nations languages.

“In 2022, 44 state schools have reported that they are working collaboratively with Language Owners to teach 26 different Aboriginal language or Torres Strait Islander language in their schools,” a Department of Education spokesman said.

“Demand for teaching an Aboriginal language or Torres Strait Islander language is increasing. Currently, a further 113 state schools are in the early stages of developing a program to teach an Aboriginal language or Torres Strait Islander language.”

University of Queensland Associate Professor Marnee Shay has done extensive research on Indigenous education in her role as an academic. She is an Aboriginal woman with connections to Wagiman Country in the Northern Territory and Indigenous communities in South East Queensland.

“Many Indigenous leaders and education advocates have been championing the inclusion of Indigenous language and culture in the curriculum for many years now. It has been slow, but we finally see change and commitment at a policy level,” she said.

“As an Aboriginal person who was denied the opportunity to speak my language, I think it is excellent that the Department has made a policy commitment to increasing the number of schools teaching First Nations languages.

“Having Indigenous language as part of the curriculum at their school is identity-affirming for Indigenous students. “For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity to learn not only the language, but the history and culture of the people who have been here for tens of thousands of years.”

However, Professor Shay said there are not enough First Nations language teachers. “We have Elders and community people that might have the knowledge and skills to teach language, but this is not always recognised by the system, which often requires people to hold university degrees,” she said.

“Indigenous people must be involved in the teaching of our own languages. You can’t teach language without culture – Indigenous people are the best people to be teaching this.

“Expanding the number [of schools teaching First Nations languages] is important, but not at the expense of process and cultural protocol – which can take time.”

All state schools are required to teach a language from at least Years 5 to 8. The four dominant languages in state schools are Japanese, French, Chinese and German.

The Department of Education spokesman said schools looking to teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are advised to gain permission from local community elders first, and work closely with them in designing the program.


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