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    I am reading through 'both ways' literature of Yolngu and non-Yolngu working their knowledge systems together. Alongside I am reading Lorraine Code's 2006 book Ecological Thinking. I am also browsing through blogs and discussions on knowledge work and community development.
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    Here I post some of my work and thinking. It is a much harder task than I thought! It is an extension of my research on knowledge and difference connecting my experiences, reflections, formal written pieces, and hopefully friends and colleagues. As work and self cannot be separate this blog is both personal and intellectual. Comments are moderated because, while it is a site for collective work, it is not anonymous.
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Remote Schooling and Situated Education

Recently I was at an development studies seminar and there one presenter talked about her time in Namibia and her research on the provision of education to the predominantly nomadic Indigenous people in the North of the country. What was said reminded me much of education in remote Northern Territory and the possible consequences of not recognizing multiple knowledges nor that knowledge is contextual or situated.

A truncated version of the story given goes like this. ‘Modern education’ [mass standardized and institutional] has been attempted in Namibia since independence in 1990 (Namibia was a German colony then governed by South Africa). Education is provided as institutionalized schooling in rural centers and is delivered in English and to a much smaller extent mobile schools service traveling families, delivering education in local languages. For a modern State, education is seen as improving the economy, social mobility, and political consciousness. The parents and the communities of remote parts of North Namibia value this education, but also want to continue their traditions. However, as the schools are only in centers or towns, this geographical separation of school and home means that having both schooling and tradition has meant that families have half their children attend school and live in town and half their children stay home and carry on tradition.

Also, when talking to the schooled children in town they commented that when they went home they used their traditional knowledge and ways of life and only used their ‘modern’ knowledge when they were at school or in town amongst their schooled peers. So, not only was modern school knowledge and traditional knowledge separated out in literally separating out children to go school or to stay at home, but even the children who did go to school recognized different knowledge is appropriate in different times and places, and separated school knowledge and traditional knowledge. For the State these separations mean that not only do many children not go to school, but those who do not go onto to apply their modern schooling universally and lead a modern life in remote Namibia.

Researchers and thinkers concerned with knowledge and education are increasingly understanding all knowledge as situated, local and contingent. Much of this research emerges from interfaces between different knowledge traditions, and how to communicate and work respectfully between them. In another but related debate, Sir Ken Robinson has recently received much publicity on the continuing discussion as to whether schooling is a benefit to handling the demands of life outside.

A possible explanation for this story rests on Western understandings of knowledge. For the Wester knowledge is objective, context free and universal. With this understanding other knowledges cannot be recognised unless they translate as lesser versions of Western science. So a schooling system believing itself as providing the only version or proper knowledge will not recognize the need to situate its knowledge in terms of others ways of knowing and other ways of living. Hence, the local communities have to do the work of separating out in the interests of maintaining their tradition and knowledge. I can only wonder that is the school were also interested in maintaining local tradition and knowledge the separating out might be done better and in ways where the differences between the knowledges were made explicit worked respectfully.

The Australian Federal Government and the Northern Territory have plans to educate remote indigenous kids by building boarding schools, most likely in some of the bigger twenty regional hubs. In light of the above, I can only see a repeat of above. The Governments will remain blind to Indigenous knowledge and language or refuse to engage with them, and the indigenous communities will work novel ways to separate out the impose modern knowing and their own ways of knowing.

[From Remote Schooling and Situated Education]