Custom «The Right of Indigenous People to Education» Sample Essay
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International community increasingly raises the question of indigenous peoples (also called the “first people”, the natives, and the aborigines), who are regarded as one of the most disadvantaged groups. Deprived of participation in decision-making, many of them are marginalized, exploited, and involuntary assimilated. Being afraid of persecution, they often become refugees and sometimes are forced to hide their status as indigenous people, abandoning the language, traditions, and customs.
The above arguments determine the relevance of the research of indigenous peoples’ rights enshrined both in national and international legislation. The structure of the essay includes: review of international legal instruments for protection of cultural rights of indigenous people; aspects of practical enforcement of the considered rights, including the right to access an education and peculiarities of bilingual education; conclusions on the topic. The organization of the essay is determined by the dual nature of the indigenous peoples’ right to education.
The works of scholars, included in the review, consider various aspects of educational rights of indigenous people, which serve as protection of cultural heritage and ethnic diversity. Despite several discrepancies, the scholars concur that rights of indigenous ethnic groups must be legally guaranteed and properly enforced.
Review of Legal Documents
The problem of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples has both international and national character. Defining legal standards with regard to the legal status of these peoples, international law facilitates the process of democratization of the internal development of the states in which they reside.
Instruments of international law enshrine the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the activities of various international and non-governmental organizations aimed at the implementation of specific procedures to protect their rights. Among the most influential acts, it is possible to distinguish Convention against Discrimination in Education of 14 December 1960 (UNESCO); Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of 1992; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007. Particularly, the latter in Article 14 preserves that indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning
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International instruments listed above evidence a high level of legal regulation of problems regarding all types of discrimination of indigenous people. However, it is worth noting that the issue is relatively new to international human rights law.
Different Approaches to Practical Enforcement of the Right to Education
Indigenous education is understood as education that takes into account the particular cultural characteristics of indigenous peoples, being devised by indigenous peoples themselves and offered in the indigenous language by institutions operating on indigenous land. It is seen as one of the essential means of preserving the cultures of indigenous peoples and of enabling persons of indigenous origin to become successful members of their communities and society at large (Beiter 2006).
In Bilingual Education: An Introductory Reader, García and Baker (2007, p. 89) state that he right to education has to be understood in two dimensions:
- Right to access education
- Right to education mediated in one’s mother tongue
This statement determines further division of the body.
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Right to Access Education
In the contemporary world, there are two ways to access education: through attendance of schools or other educational establishments and remotely through the Internet. The author claims that both types of enjoyment of the right to education are significant for indigenous development, but they have to be applied for different purposes.
Schools in indigenous communities vs. boarding schools. Practically implementing the right of indigenous people to education, it seems necessary to establish appropriate educational institutions within location of indigenous communities. This will allow to avoid cultural assimilation and, at the same time, increase literacy among indigenous children.
The field of ongoing debate, according to Social Justice Report (2008), is the question whether it is better to educate indigenous children in local communities or whether it is better to remove them to boarding schools. The positive aspect of education in boarding schools is that they allow access to western style education and immersion in the English language. Nevertheless, this way may provide total assimilation of ethnic groups and thus blur their cultural identity.
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Consequently, from the standpoint of preservation of ethnic and cultural diversity of population, it seems more expedient to provide good educational infrastructure and competent teaching staff to remote indigenous areas than to remove indigenous pupils to boarding schools.
It seems appropriate to consider this question from the economic standpoint as well. Simple formulation of the law implies a lot of complex measures and substantial financial investment in its enforcement (Beiter 2006). Referring to enforcement practices, Dr. Erica-Irene A. Daes claimed that the key actors in providing enjoyment of indigenous peoples’ rights are not states, only private organizations such as universities, museums, and business entities (Daes 2004). Returning to the dilemma between education in local schools or boarding schools, it is more economically expedient to establish local educational institutions. Boarding schools do not have appropriate number of places to accommodate all the pupils and their allowance in such accommodations will cost the state a fortune. According to Kronemann (2007), for Australian Aborigines, for example, the costs of additional classrooms and housing will make up $375–$440 million, compared to estimated $295 million for construction of remote educational infrastructure.
Internet in the system of indigenous education. The author believes that the Internet, as the main consequence of globalization, may have both positive and negative impacts on cultural identity. However, in terms of educational rights, the Internet provides useful training for indigenous people in remote locations.
Some governments, in order to enforce rights of indigenous people, have adopted a progressive decision to provide access to the Internet in indigenous communities. Web technology is really useful in delivery of education to indigenous people, especially in conditions of remote locations, where access to formal education is often limited (Dyson & Underwood 2006, p. 72). However, Dr. Erica-Irene A. Daes (2004) believes that the Internet may make aboriginal population vulnerable and it is important to keep their most private and sacred knowledge out of the Internet.
Despite all the conveniences of online education, the author believes that formal education is much more important for children because in order to make use of the Internet, they first of all have to be literate. In the author’s opinion, Internet resources are more suitable for training adults or engaging in e-commerce, especially for women with children.
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To sum up, it seems necessary to develop comprehensive educational infrastructure in remote indigenous locations with qualified teaching staff, competent in cultural issues. The education or training of adults, though, may be provided by online means.
The author argues that bilingual education is expedient only at the initial stages of learning, where the native language is used to master the language of wider community. The main objective of government is to ban discrimination and provide the freedom of choice.
The right of indigenous persons to preserve and use their own language is one of the basic human rights. Fernand de Varennes (1995) underlines the world community’s direction towards increased recognition of the special place, which indigenous peoples occupy within a society's legal and political order. Nowadays, governments have a chance to correct the results of colonisation and assimilation by providing assistance in continued use of these languages.
Unfortunately, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (2008) believes that this perspective may stay just a theoretical issue. The trick of bilingual education is that enabling a child through education to become fully competent in language of wider communication, it is possible to leave mother tongue behind. As a result, the person is involuntary transferred to the majority language speaking group. The fact is that the priority of secondary education is its content, rather than enforcement of language rights of the children, who support such a hierarchy of educational aims (Hornberger 1998, p. 454).
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Given all the above, the author does not mean that the native language has no right to exist. It is possible to use native language to study the subjects out of the western system of education that relate to cultural peculiarities of worldview. According to the author, the most necessary objective is to avoid the discrimination and to empower pupils to make choices which language to use in a particular situation. On the basis of Hornberger’s statement, it becomes obvious that it is impossible to force children to preserve their cultural identity.
Thus, entitling indigenous people to the rights to preserve their cultural identity, the government does not force them to do so, but empowers people to use the right to choose, which is essential in modern world.
It is extremely important that indigenous peoples continue to transmit their traditional knowledge and way of life in accordance with their customs. In order to protect the identity of indigenous cultures, some governments consult with indigenous peoples, so that history, culture, and lifestyle of indigenous peoples are perceived correctly and in conformity with their cultural values. In some cases, governments help indigenous communities to establish their own schools, so that children could learn their native language and traditional culture, as well as the culture of the society in which they live.
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In the regulation and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, contemporary international law is guided by the recognition of human rights and freedoms that shall be equally enjoyed by all inhabitants of the planet, regardless of their racial, religious, ethnic, or linguistic identity. At the same time, regardless of the size and other characteristics of ethnic groups, they are subjected to the principles of equal rights to self-determination. Such recognition of their individual and collective rights is determined by the fact that indigenous peoples are rightful citizens of the states in which they reside, as well as other citizens and peoples of these countries.
However, it is worth noting that the theoretical legal basis requires practical ways of implementation. It seems necessary to develop appropriate social and educational programmes for indigenous people to facilitate their integration with modern society, and at the sane time preserve cultural identity.
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