There are countless great stories of achievement in Indigenous education, many highlighted in the recent Indigenous Boarding Awards. However, the media regular report on the numerous failings and challenges to address the poor results achieved in Closing the Gap over the past decade.
Headlines such as: ‘Children desert remote schools’ – ‘The ‘smart and cheeky’ Aboriginal boy teaching Australia a lesson’ – ‘Boarding school policy ‘comprehensively failing’ remote Indigenous students, study finds’ and ‘Australia’s education system must move away from its colonial world view’ shout loudly to these failings.
Many of the answers to improve outcomes for Indigenous students are already known. The Closing the Gaps reports themselves identify what works to improve education outcomes.
How do we Close the Education Gap?
Well, it is not a one fix model. Different strategies are needed for different students, families and communities. Industrial and funding barriers need to be removed. In addition to each state jurisdiction there are five commonwealth Minister with some oversight over aspects affecting Indigenous education.
There are also differences between city and remote education outcomes. The needle has moved substantially for urban students but they are still 25% behind their non-Indigenous peers. For remote and in particular very remote students the gap remains significant. This requires improving remote primary education and boarding education that recognises cultural needs of students.
The 2018 Study Away Review findings identified issues faced by those studying away from home and based and proposed the way forward is to:
- build the evidence base on what works;
- strengthen family and community capacity;
- improve service coordination both at home and in boarding; and
- streamline funding arrangements, making processes less complex.
You can hear from the lead on the Study Away Report on the IEBA Recordings webpage.
Does you school know what works for Indigenous students?
Many schools are achieving fantastic results and have done so over many years. Other schools are still finding their way to support Indigenous students. For many teachers their own education didn’t prepare them to work with Indigenous students.
In a remote community school, the challenge has many other aspects. For a new teacher in a remote setting, they might have a handle on pedagogy but where do they learn to co-teach with an Aboriginal Education Worker, let alone engage with Indigenous parents whose first language isn’t English?
There is a clear need for ‘What Works’ knowledge and resources. There is also a need for all schools to understand the education targets in the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap and prepare their own strategies. This is the focus of the 2021 National Indigenous Education & Boarding Symposium in Cairns.