Things to consider when looking at Indigenous world views and their place in today’s education system…

I have recently come across some research on the issues surrounding the provision of a culturally appropriate science curriculum for Indigenous students. Having spent the last couple of weeks reading up on the very interesting 8 Aboriginal ways of learning, I found a particular journal article which sparked my interest in this area. The article discussed the importance of implementing a science curriculum that isn’t invariably based solely on Western culture, but rather considers the history, culture and beliefs of the Indigenous communities.

Something that was of particular interest to me was the concept of a Westernized curriculum inadvertently demeaning the beliefs of students from a non-Western cultural background, thus inhibiting opportunities for effective learning outcomes. This is something that I have always been somewhat oblivious to, because to be quite honest, I just never knew any better. It never occurred to me that an Indigenous student learning within a Westernized education system, could often face the dilemma of being forced to reject their own belief system and instead accept a scientific explanation for many situations.  The article provided an example of the very different scientific perspectives between the two cultures using a Venn diagram that an Indigenous student had completed on the topic of crocodiles. In the Indigenous (non-Westernized) loop there were facts such as “crocodiles are totems for some people”, “crocodiles are common in Indigenous laws”, “the first crocodiles travelled across Arnhemland – they created the landscape”. In the Western loop there were facts such as “a crocodile is a reptile”, “its brain is only as big as a man’s thumb”. The area which overlapped the two cultures’ beliefs included things like “they are dangerous” and “they live in freshwater and saltwater”. I found this example of diversity interesting as a Preservice teacher as it suddenly struck me that there is so much more significance to something that we often perceive as ‘simple’ as a crocodile, if you broaden the cultural context in which they are explored.

Ultimately, it is almost inevitable that a cultural bias is likely to develop in such an area like science where almost all subject matter is inextricably linked with the progressions and development of Western civilisations. However, it is important that today’s educators begin taking more consideration into the differing world views of the Indigenous cultures so all students can gain a broader and deeper understanding of the subject in authentic and distinctive contexts.

References:

Linkson, M. (1999). Some issues in providing culturally appropriate science curriculum support for indigenous students. Australian Science Teachers Journal45(1), 41-48. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=7&sid=d41b72b3-d1b2-4ee

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