Chapter 4 of this Oxford published book by Hyde, Carpenter and Conway (2010) focusses on Indigenous perspectives and cultural identity.

Although not specifically related to Ethnomathematics, it refers to clashes between ‘dominant culture’ and the culture of students.  It recognises that the Australian curriculum, and education providers, are trying to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives, but notes that it’s not enough (p.74).

The National Aboriginal Council (NAEC) as cited in Hyde et al. (2010) provides several recommendations for improved Aboriginal outcomes, including the need to incorporate Aboriginal values.

They suggest that the educational process must build on their traditional cultures, and homelives, rather than denying their heritage, or quashing it through swapping one culture for another.  Allowing students to embrace their heritage, in what is otherwise a ‘dominant culture’ environment gives them a sense of identity, allows them to believe in themselves, and contributes to positive student-teacher relationships, which ultimately results in better educational outcomes.

When students believe their teacher understands them, their culture, where they come from and their particular needs, and when the teacher has high expectations for success of the students; students are more likely to see school as a positive place to be, and are therefore more likely to be positive about their education.

The NAEC further suggests Aboriginal Cultural Studies should be part of all Australian students’ education, and Aboriginal people should be a major part of that education.  Obviously, this cannot be changed overnight, so I’ll go on to the next point, which recognises that Australian education should provide opportunities to strengthen Aboriginal Culture, alongside the required learning of skills and technologies. But, they also acknowledge that the cultural heritage, values and lifestyles will be different for traditional and non-traditional Aboriginal people depending and  where they live.

One of the most important ways to engage with the student’s heritage, values and lifestyles is to build relationships with the families and communities of the students. Many Aboriginal people recognise the importance of education, because they want children to be able to exist in “both worlds”, but not at the expense of their cultural heritage. Building, on cultural understanding, through the creation of family and community relationships, provides opportunities for positive education support from the child’s own communities and consequently; inclusion of cultural identity in learning.

Much research, talks about learning styles as a valid consideration for education.  While Ryan (1992) questions the validity of the concept, the What works program (DEST as cited in Hyde et al., 2010) suggests that more than an “Aboriginal style of learning”, learning styles are determined by the learning done by the student prior to entering school.  This too suggests that family – school relationships would allow teachers to provide learning opportunities relevant to, and reflective of their specific home and community environments (Hyde et al., 2010, p76). McRae (as cited in Hyde et al., 2010, p82) reiterates the importance of partnerships, in the process of recognising culture in education.

Giroux (as cited in Hyde et al., 2010, p79) goes so far as to say successful education of Aboriginal students depends on the integration of culture and cultural practices.

On consideration of what I’ve read, I don’t know that I’ve learned anything new. I still wonder what this looks like? Another reading (which I’ll discuss in my next post) suggests that incorporating token culture, out of context is not worthwhile.

So what might cultural integration look like?
Well, similar to the 8 ways Aboriginal learning program, Partington (as cited in Hyde et al., 2010, p85) suggests it involves taking an holistic view of the children, the process, the context and the content, and might look differently on different days, and is dependant on what’s appropriate at a given time:

a) culturally appropriate instruction (such as non-verbal, big picture – deconstruct/reconstruct – ala 8 ways)
b) deliberate removal of racism and oppression (integration of true stories rather than ‘white’-version)
c) extra support for students as needed to rectify forms of deprivation

The authors further suggest reading Two way teaching and learning, toward culturally reflective and relevant education (Purdie, Milgate and Bell, 2011), which I have read during this course.  I feel that Chapter 10 would be a good place to send people – so – feel free to check it out … “Indigenous mathematics: Creating an equitable learning environment” …

To my mind this all makes for a much more interesting, and achievable provision of inclusive education. It’s certainly much more than trying to include token content!
See my next post related to an Aboriginal man’s perspective of including token content…















Hyde, M., Carpenter, L., & Conway, R. (2010). Diversity, inclusion and engagement (2nd edition ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Sarra, G., Matthews, C., Ewing, B., & Cooper, T. (2011). A bilingual education policy issue; Biliteracy versus English-only literacy. In N. Purdie (Ed.), Two way teaching and learning: toward culturally reflective and relevant education (2nd ed., pp. 173-185). Victoria, Australia: ACER Press. (Reprinted from: 2012).

Ryan, J. (1992). Aboriginal learning styles: A critical review. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 5(3), 161-183. doi: 10.1080/07908319209525124