Indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with the natural world for thousands of years, developing unique ways of understanding and interacting with their surroundings. This knowledge is often passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition, and includes a wide range of information about the environment, culture and history of the community. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of preserving and utilising these indigenous funds of knowledge in order to improve the lives of indigenous peoples and protect the planet’s natural resources.
In our present study in Brunei Darussalam (henceforth Brunei), we found that indigenous peoples have developed a deep understanding of the natural world through generations of living in close relationship with the land. This knowledge, known as ‘local ecological knowledge’, includes information about the different plant and animal species in the area, their seasonal patterns, and how they can be used sustainably (Davis & Wagner, 2003). For example, the traditional ecological knowledge of the Iban people of Brunei has been practised sustainably to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the Ulu Temburong, where they live.
The incorporation of indigenous funds of knowledge into curriculum-making practices recognises the knowledge and skills that families and communities have, and how they can be used to support student learning in the classroom (Moll et al., 1992). This approach emphasises the importance of valuing and utilising the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of students and their families, rather than viewing them as deficits to be overcome (González et al., 2005). By recognising the funds of knowledge approach, teachers can develop more culturally-responsive teaching practices and create more inclusive and equitable learning environments for all students. Additionally, it can help to break down stereotypes and biases held by teachers and make use of the resources that students bring with them to the classroom to enhance their learning.
‘The funds of knowledge approach can help to break down stereotypes and biases held by teachers and make use of the resources that students bring with them to the classroom to enhance their learning.’
The funds of knowledge approach can inform curriculum-making practices in several ways, such as by including content and perspectives that reflect the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students. This can be done by incorporating texts, stories and other materials that are relevant to the students’ cultures, and by highlighting the contributions of people from diverse backgrounds throughout history. Additionally, the funds of knowledge approach can inform curriculum-making practices by recognising and building on the skills and knowledge that students bring with them to the classroom. For example, if a student comes from a community where there is a strong tradition of gardening, the teacher could incorporate gardening-related activities into the curriculum.
In our current research, we are recognising and valuing the rich indigenous knowledge and traditions that have been not only preserved but also shared and passed down to future generations for the mutual benefit of both indigenous peoples and the wider world. To achieve this, we are involving families and community members in the curriculum-making process as a key strategy to integrate and incorporate the valuable funds of knowledge they possess, ensuring that the curriculum is responsive and reflective of the community’s needs and perspectives. This approach will lead to more inclusive and equitable learning environments and a more relevant and engaging curriculum for students.
A noteworthy illustration of the practical application of indigenous funds of knowledge can be seen in Australia, where the government has collaborated with indigenous communities to integrate traditional knowledge and perspectives into the formal education system. This effort has resulted in a more inclusive and culturally-responsive approach to teaching and learning, enabling students to connect their own knowledge and experiences with the material being taught, thus making it more engaging and relevant to them. Additionally, it helps to break down stereotypes and biases while promoting understanding and respect for the indigenous peoples and their culture.
In conclusion, the recognition, respect and utilisation of indigenous funds of knowledge is essential in curriculum-making practices. By fostering collaboration and cooperation between indigenous peoples and education communities, traditional knowledge can be shared and protected for future generations, while also providing unique perspectives and solutions to current educational and environmental challenges. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and to acknowledge the valuable contributions their traditional knowledge can bring to the table in promoting sustainable development that is culturally responsive for all students.
Davis, A., & Wagner, J. R. (2003). Who knows? On the importance of identifying “experts” when researching local ecological knowledge. Human Ecology, 31(3), 463–489. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025075923297
González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781410613462
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31(2), 132–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405849209543534