New Indigenous Education Toolkit Offers a Way to Strengthen Culturally Rooted Education

New Indigenous Education Toolkit Offers a Way to Strengthen Culturally Rooted Education

Toolkit draws on the experiences of the remarkable Indonesian indigenous education movement
Photo: LifeMosaic
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May 2, 2019

LifeMosaic and YP-MAN (The Education Foundation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Indonesian Archipelago) are launching Back to the Village: A Toolkit on Indigenous Education.

This toolkit draws on the experiences of the remarkable Indonesian indigenous education movement that has grown from just a handful of indigenous schools 4 years ago, to over 40 today. It also draws on long-standing experiences of indigenous education in Latin America and in the Philippines.

This toolkit is intended particularly for indigenous educators not just in Indonesia but all over the world. It is for all those that are setting up new indigenous education initiatives, reviving existing systems of customary transmission of knowledge and practices, or for anyone that is interested in education that helps to sustain the diverse expressions of humanity.

The launch of the toolkit coincides with the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), whose theme this year is: Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection. The toolkit is also a contribution to the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

“This toolkit on indigenous education helps us to take notice that our indigenous mother tongue language is under threat and could become extinct if we don’t take steps to protect it. It helps us to be more convinced to continue educating our children in our own language and using our own culture. We have now started to make a digital dictionary of our language.”

Widie Nurmahmudy, Kampung Batara School – Banyuwangi, East Java.

What is in the Toolkit?

The toolkit includes the book Indigenous Education: The Call of the Territory. The book provides an overview of indigenous education, and tells the story of how the Indonesian movement has developed. It also describes indigenous education initiatives in Latin America and the Philippines, covering early childhood and primary age education, secondary, and tertiary education.

Photo: LifeMosaic

The toolkit also contains 5 videos, including 4 videos about exceptional educational initiatives:

Samabue: The Seeds of Indigenous Education in Indonesia showcases one of the first of the indigenous schools recently set up in Indonesia.

Tugdaan – An Indigenous High School portrays an educational institution dedicated to serve the 8 Mangyan tribes of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, The Philippines. Tugdaan high school is 30 years old this year!

Pamulaan – Centre for Indigenous Peoples Education describes an indigenous university created for the indigenous youth of the Philippines.

Misak Education: Decolonising the Mind tells the story of how the Misak people in Colombia developed their own education system, from primary school through to university.

Finally Back to the Village: Indigenous Education in Indonesia is an introductory film to indigenous education, based on a gathering of indigenous educators from across Indonesia and the Philippines in Kasepuhan Ciptagelar, West Java.

“This toolkit helps us to share the importance of indigenous education with parents and other people in our community to help them understand that strengthening culturally rooted education is so important. The toolkit is easy to use and we are holding a mobile screening every month so that more people will join and support us.”

Noviansyah, Benakat Indigenous School teacher – South Sumatra

What is indigenous education?

Indigenous education is born from the territory and the ancestors. It is unique to each indigenous people, since it is rooted in the life and the culture of each indigenous people in their territory.

Indigenous education is key to keeping indigenous children and youth grounded in their unique cultures. There is a growing trend in Indonesia and in many other countries of decolonizing educational systems, and rebuilding educational structures which allow indigenous knowledge, language, and cosmologies to be at the heart of their own educational experience.

Photo: LifeMosaic

At its heart, indigenous education includes the traditional learning systems, philosophies, and methodologies, that have ensured the transmission of indigenous knowledge and practices from generation to generation.

“Indigenous Education is a kind of education that is rooted in indigenous peoples lives and cultures. […] indigenous education is the kind of education that puts indigenous culture as the foundation of learning and growing as a person.”

Kring Sumalinab, Graduate from Pamulaan Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Education

New forms of indigenous education are also emerging that also help indigenous peoples meet the challenges they face today. Such indigenous education initiatives are now established in over 20 Latin American countries, in Canada and the US, Australia and New Zealand, in Norway, and in the Philippines, to name but a few. Most recently, Indonesia is seeing rapid growth and development in indigenous education.

These new forms of culturally rooted indigenous education help indigenous children and youth to explore ways to remain connected to their territory, and create opportunities for them to think critically about the new challenges and threats faced by their people. This helps to prepare a new generation of indigenous leaders, deeply connected, ready to support their elders in protecting indigenous rights, cultures, and territories, and willing to explore and propose exciting new ways to take forward indigenous knowledge and practices while still following in the footsteps of the ancestors.

Photo: LifeMosaic

Why is indigenous education important?

Indigenous peoples around the world face multiple threats to their ancestral territories, their cultures, beliefs and languages. These threats include agro-industrial developments, extractive industries and rapid infrastructure development. Indigenous peoples are discriminated against, intimidated, criminalized, imprisoned and even killed when they assert their rights in the face of these developments. Many indigenous peoples are displaced from or lose access to their territories. Indigenous peoples face “great waves of change that systematically extinguish their history, and destroy their relationship with their ancestors,” says Abdon Nababan, Executive Director of YPMAN.

Current political structures, corporate power, and many national education systems act together to force the assimilation of indigenous peoples through cultural homogenization. European systems for governing and learning were imposed on indigenous peoples during European colonialism, and later in many independent post-colonial countries.

Today, national educational systems impose dominant languages and philosophies, and tend to teach homogeneous national or global knowledge. In this process, thousands of knowledges and cultures are made invisible, or described as ignorant, obsolete, or backward.

Photo: LifeMosaic

Given these circumstances, indigenous education is urgently needed to ensure the continued existence of indigenous peoples, their knowledge systems and practices, and their territories.

Indigenous education helps to protect the territory by helping to maintain worldviews and institutions. It restores a key responsibility for elders in the transmission of knowledge and wisdom. Indigenous education can help keep indigenous children and youth grounded in their cultures, results in better educational outcomes, and prepares the next generation of leaders in the territory.

The rise in indigenous education is helping to guarantee the transmission and continuity of rich, diverse, and locally-specific knowledges and practices that are primarily essential to the survival of indigenous peoples themselves. These diverse ways of being, learning, and knowing also contain many of the solutions for humanity to find ways out of the crisis in these times of rapid ecological and social change.

These resources are aimed at all those wanting to understand better the importance of culturally rooted education systems for indigenous populations including both indigenous and non-indigenous educators, academics, activists and policy makers. The toolkit is being launched on March 2, 2019 and can be downloaded from LifeMosaic’s website.

Taken together this work contributes to our vision of an abundant future, where empowered communities maintain the mosaic of biocultural diversity.

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