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Bringing indigenous perspectives to life

Project teaches students about different cultures, encouraging understanding and international mindedness

Imagine having a Maasai warrior teaching your students about indigenous communities? The Indigenous Dialogue Project is working to make this possible.

The project, curated by Nomadic School of Business, connects Middle Years Programme (MYP) and IB Diploma Programme (DP) students to indigenous perspectives across the world, via video conference. It links to the Theory of knowledge’s (TOK) Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Over the next school year students will learn about Maassai Tribe, the Romani community and the Ainu community in Japan.

DP students at ACS International, in Singapore, recently had a lecture, over Skype, with Dr Welyne Jehom, a social anthropologist and expert in Iban culture. Students learned about Iban traditional practices, social hierarchy and their history in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Megan Man, a DP student, says: “We discovered how men and women were portrayed differently in their community, for instance through the way they dress and the role each gender would take up in performing rituals.

“This lecture furthered my interest in indigenous culture through teaching me to look at modern society in a different light with an open-minded manner, and allowed me to understand how communities grew to become the way they are today. For instance, how past beliefs and values had influenced their current traditions and religious practices.

DP students at ACS International listening to Dr Welyne Jehom

“Learning about the struggles and assimilation of indigenous communities into modern society allowed me to appreciate the way in which they have strived to maintain their cultural identity throughout the years. This is despite facing barriers such as banning of rituals and the influence of globalization and modernization. My respect for these communities is unwavering.”

DP student Benjamin Ong adds: “I expanded my knowledge of the Iban community. The lecture provided a real-life situation, which we could use as a basis for our TOK presentations. We learned to be more open-minded, as we were discovering more about a culture that is vastly different from ours in Singapore.”

The Indigenous Dialogue Project was founded in 2019 by Josie Stoker and Anthony Willoughby, and was inspired by the needs and motivations of school teachers to introduce indigenous perspectives in a meaningful and respectful manner.

“It’s easy for students to think they have a global worldview by default of going to an international school. But, what we often miss are the pluralistic world-views of thousands of minority groups that we share the earth with,” says Kai Childs, the project’s learning coordinator and a DP graduate.

“Students need exposure, not only from textbooks but through exchange with indigenous peoples, so that it may inform their own ways of thinking and studies as they choose.”

This article is part of a series of stories from IB World magazine that bring to life the wonderful initiatives undertaken by IB students and educators from around the globe. Follow these stories on Twitter @IBorganization #IBcommunitystories. Share your great stories and experiences: email editor@ibo.org