Language may contribute to Indigenous disadvantage

Nov 09, 2012

(Phys.org)—Poor schooling outcomes are a key factor driving Indigenous Australian disadvantage in life, and UQ's Dr Ilana Mushin wants to find out why.

Dr Mushin and her research partner, Associate Professor Rod Gardner, from Griffith University, are investigating whether the way students and teachers speak to each other could be part of the problem.

"We noticed that although most Indigenous children in Australia do not speak a traditional language, neither do they speak Standard Australian English in their homes and communities," Dr Mushin said.

"Teachers may assume that their children already know Standard Australian English, even if they are perceived to speak it 'badly', when in fact they are having to learn the through the medium of another dialect.

"Coupled with the already well documented challenges faced by Indigenous students, this can lead to real educational disadvantage."

Dr Mushin said she hoped to show that when Indigenous children started school, they had to learn English through the medium of a second , which impacted successful transmission of knowledge.

"At present, we are looking at how children try to get teachers' attention for feedback or , whether or not their strategies are successful, and to what language differences may be a factor in what happens," Dr Mushin said.

"We have noticed that in early years schooling work hard to get a response, suggesting that they are highly engaged in learning, but may get less engaged over time because of the language differences.

"Often the teachers are from a non-Indigenous background and are not aware of the issues, which suggests the need for better in language differences and the explicit teaching of Standard Australian English.

"We will continue to work with the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment to run workshops and produce training guides and posters.

"We believe our findings can be applied to other culturally diverse school environments."

The research team is also producing a sociohistorical account of linguistic variation and development within some Queensland Indigenous communities, to show how such community vernacular languages are robust linguistic systems, and not simply "Broken English" or "Slang".

Explore further: A two generation lens: Current state policies fail to support families with young children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving teaching in Indigenous education

Aug 27, 2012

Teachers' professional development in understanding Indigenous cultures and teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students needs to be improved greatly to meet new government standards, according ...

Recommended for you

Scholar tracks the changing world of gay sexuality

Sep 19, 2014

With same-sex marriage now legalized in 19 states and laws making it impossible to ban homosexuals from serving in the military, gay, lesbian and bisexual people are now enjoying more freedoms and rights than ever before.

User comments : 0