Indigenous Bilingual Education Programs in Australia

2335 Words 10 Pages
Introduction
Despite Australia’s ever-growing multiculturalism, it has been found that ‘monolingualism is extraordinarily common in Australia throughout the general population and all occupational levels (Bostock, 1973).’ With such an array of cultures present, one would assume that Australian education systems would have endless bilingual programs in place. However, this is not the case. Despite the successes of bilingual education on a global scale, little effort has been made to preserve any Australian languages, meaning that language death has become an everyday factor that Indigenous individuals have to deal with (Wurm, 1991). This paper discusses the concept of bilingual education and its faults in the transition from theory to
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The positives of bilingual education have been recognised on a global scale for years. These benefits include: enabling minority cultures to maintain and develop their traditions, self-esteem and identity; improving intercultural communication between groups within and outside the society; enriching individuals intellectually, educationally and culturally and thus allowing ‘intergenerational communication, providing cognitive advantages, enhancing employment and career prospects and contributing to general wellbeing (Simpson 2009, p.3).’ Thus, in its broadest sense, bicultural education is the teaching of two ways of life (Harris, 1978).

Bilingual Education - The Transition from Theory to Practice
Despite bilingual education’s apparent successes on paper, the transition from theory to practice determines whether the program will succeed or fail. An evidential reason of why bilingual programs fail in schools, particularly in the Australian context, is that they are treated as transfer bilingual programs, rather than the maintenance model (Harris, 1978). According to Harris (1978), transfer bilingual programs are when the Indigenous language is merely implemented as an efficient way of making students literate in English in