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Indigenous education specifically focuses on teaching indigenous knowledge, models, methods, and content within formal or non-formal educational systems. The growing recognition and use of indigenous education methods can be a response to the erosion and loss of indigenous knowledge through the processes of colonialism, globalization, and modernity. Indigenous communities are able to “reclaim and revalue their languages and [traditions], and in so doing, improve the educational success of indigenous students,” thus ensuring their survival as a culture.
Increasingly, there has been a global shift toward recognizing and understanding indigenous models of education as a viable and legitimate form of education. There are many different educational systems throughout the world, some that are more predominant and widely accepted. However, members of indigenous communities celebrate diversity in learning and see this global support for teaching traditional forms of knowledge as a success. Indigenous ways of knowing, learning, instructing, teaching, and training have been viewed by many postmodern scholars as important for ensuring that students and teachers, whether indigenous or non-indigenous, are able to benefit from education in a culturally sensitive manner that draws upon, utilizes, promotes, and enhances awareness of indigenous traditions, beyond the standard Western curriculum of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
A growing body of scientific literature has described indigenous ways of learning, in different cultures and countries. Learning in indigenous communities is a process that involves all members in the community.
The learning styles that children use in their indigenous schooling are the same ones that occur in their community context. These indigenous learning styles often include: observation, imitation, use of narrative/storytelling, collaboration, and cooperation, as seen among American Indian, Alaska Native and Latin American communities. This is a hands on approach that emphasizes direct experience and learning through inclusion.The child feels that he/she is a vital member of the community, and he/she is encouraged to participate in a meaningful way by community members. Children often effectively learn skills through this system, without being taught explicitly or in a formal manner. This differs from Western learning styles, which tend to include methods such as explicit instruction and testing/ quizzing. Creating an educational environment for indigenous children that is consistent with upbringing, rather than an education that follows a traditionally Western format, allows for a child to retain knowledge more easily, because they are learning in a way that was successful for them in the past in their community.
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