Indigenous Worldviews in Holistic Education

Indigenous Worldviews in Holistic Education







Indigenous Worldviews in Holistic Education

Indigenous Worldviews and Elements that Contribute to a Holistic Education

Mahmoudi, Jafari, Nasrabadi, and Liaghatdar (2012) explained that holistic education has a wide range of philosophical orientations and pedagogical practices that focus on wholesome development without neglect of any aspects of the human experience. The main attribute of holistic education is the notion that educational experiences cultivate a greater spiritual and dynamic worldview of reality as opposed to a materialistic one. Based on Indigenous worldview, holistic education is a paradigm or a set of basic assumptions and principles that are applied in diverse ways. The objective is for educational experiences to cultivate development of a balanced relationship between the divergent elements that make up an individual namely physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, aesthetic and social as according to Bastien (2004). The author also argues that holistic education is also the development of a balance in relationships with other people, the inner self and the natural environment (Bastien, 2004). It is in this argument that indigenous languages are considered the most essential philosophical approaches of understanding the nature of the universe. In essence, holistic education is the learning from life experiences as opposed to tertiary learning in the classroom.

One of the prime elements in holistic education is the emphasis on the interconnectedness between reality and experience. The argument is that holistic education efforts to construct a pedagogy that is dynamic and in harmony with the universe (Mahmoudi, Jafari, Nasrabadi & Liaghatdar, 2012). Another contributing element is in the concept to analyze and challenge the accepted senses by the society. Bastien argues that this notion results in the development of a learner who is active, critical and participatory of his or her contextual environment (2004). In this, the holistic student has a greater understanding of the universe because of his superior capture of the order of things and sense of meaning. Cardinal and Hildebrandt (2000) focused on the elders’ views on the relationship between First Nations and Crown. Elders assumed that such interrelation is a familial relationship, which is based on codes of conduct, behaviors, and rules, which must be maintained in holistic education. Based on this perception, it is guaranteed that mutual sharing assists in maintaining people’s survival and stability for a continuous livelihood (Cardinal & Hildebrandt, 2000). Lastly, holistic educators give significance to the reverence and respect of the internal individual (inner life) as part of the type of learning. Self-knowledge of the inner individual facilitates improved understanding of the external contextual environment (Mahmoudi, Jafari, Nasrabadi & Liaghatdar, 2012).

The Significance of Indigenous Languages to Indigenous Education

Language represents the key element that gives people the ability to communicate with each other facilitating the creation of individual identities and subsequent cultures amongst interacting people. Giving modularity to the significance language plays, Indigenous languages are the prime communication tools that give aboriginal education its unique distinctiveness and cohesiveness. Zuckermann et. al., (2014) expound further on this interconnectedness between language, culture, and education in their statement, “Language describes cultural attachment to place, cultural heritage items, and puts meaning within the many cultural activities that people do. Furthermore, language plays a fundamental part in binding communities together as a culture, and individuals to each other in a society.” Kitson and Bowes (2010) explained that respecting culture is important in indigenous education because it assists children to have shared values. Hutchins et al. (2009) in Kitson and Bowes (2010) argued that the presence of indigenous educators assists children to feel valued in the school environment. Indigenous staffs use indigenous language to teach students; therefore providing a culturally desirable comfort within the school (Hutchins et al., 2009 cited in Kitson & Bowes, 2010).

Zuckermann, Shakuto-Neoh, and Quer (2014) asserted that indigenous language enables people to have a sense of pride and identity. It is, therefore used in indigenous education to maintain the identity of indigenous students and the community culture. The language serves as an integral item for affirming and maintaining wellbeing, self-esteem, and a strong sense of identity. Zuckermann et al. (2014) explained that indigenous language is associated with educational improvement in non-language subjects and self-confidence among students. Such improvement is associated with enhanced employability and reduction in delinquenc

Apart from setting the school setting, Indigenous language assists education to structure cultural continuity through the passing of knowledge from generation to generation. There is wealth in scholarly evidences that show Indigenous languages ascertain individuals are connected to their culture while strengthening their sense of self worth and communal pride. This is because languages convey the understandings of culture and its association with a certain geographical area (Zuckermann et. al, 2014). Tsosie (2012) explained that the indigenous ways of knowing are based on locally, ecologically, and seasonally contextualized truths. Finding a satisfactory answer towards the use of indigenous languages in indigenous education would greatly bring a remedy towards existing educational system to bring about a blended context that respects and builds both indigenous and Eurocentric knowledge systems. From the native languages, Indigenous education gains an avenue through which to assess student growth with pinpoint accuracy. Educators also benefit through the same avenue as they develop cultural sensitive curriculum that are more effective. As seen, the significance of Indigenous education moves beyond the ability to communicate. It gives the students a sense of cultural identity while the society benefits from cultural preservation across generations. Educators and students benefit in establishment of more effective teaching and assessment methods resulting in proper cognitive development.





Bastien, B. (2004). Blackfoot ways of knowing: The worldview of the Siksikaitsitapi. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

Cardinal, H., & Hildebrandt., W. (2000). Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan: Our dream is that our peoples will one day be clearly recognized as nations. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

Kitson, R., & Bowes, J. (2010). Incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing in early education for Indigenous children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(4), 81-89.

Mahmoudi, S. Jafari, E.,  Nasrabadi, H.A.,  & Liaghatdar, M. J. (2012). Holistic education: An approach for 21 Century. International Education Studies 5(2), 178-186. Retrieved from

Tsosie, R. (2012). Indigenous peoples and epistemic injustice: Science, ethics, and human rights. Washington Law Review, 87(4), 1133-1201. Retrieved from

Zuckermann, G., Shakuto-Neoh, S., & Quer, G. M. (2014). Native Tongue Title: Compensation for the loss of Aboriginal languages. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2014(1), 55-71.Retrieved from



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