Wednesday, June 27, 2012

government failure in indigenous education documented

Although this report falls short of recommending a Noel Pearson style full immersion Direct Instruction program it does thoroughly document the problem of education of indigenous Australians in remote communities and doesn't hesitate to blame the Government for it's failure in supporting separatist education philosophies and fudging the targets.

Indigenous Education 2012
Helen Hughes and Mark Hughes
The Centre for Independent Studies

from the Introduction:
We again give special attention to the estimated 20,000 (of a total 170,000) Indigenous students enrolled in Indigenous schools in ‘bush’ communities on Indigenous lands. These students have been the principal victims of separatist education philosophies for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. In Indigenous schools, 90% literacy and numeracy failure rates have been, and often still are, common. Another 40,000 Indigenous students attend underperforming mainstream schools with above-average failure rates, side by side with non-Indigenous students. However, the majority of Indigenous students—more than 110,000—attend quality mainstream schools where they are achieving national minimum literacy and numeracy standards; these students are therefore not the subject of this report. Unwillingness to recognise these Indigenous students’ high literacy and numeracy pass rates has fed low expectations of Indigenous students’ abilities.

from the Executive Summary:
The situation
In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reduced the Indigenous education target from fix the problem in four years to fix half the problem in 10 years. The first four year’s NAPLAN results show that only Queensland and Western Australia have made significant progress. All states and territories will struggle to reach the reduced target. On the education ministers’ timetable, Indigenous children will not have the same education as non-Indigenous children until 2028.

Most Indigenous Australians live and work in cities and towns. Their children—more than 110,000—attend mainstream schools and achieve minimum national literacy and numeracy standards like non-Indigenous students. Indigenous students have the same intellectual capabilities as non-Indigenous students. The education industry’s focus on ‘indigeneity’ is a politically driven distraction. If indigeneity was the problem, the majority of Indigenous students would not be passing.

School failure is the problem
Some 20,000 students attend Indigenous schools—those with 75% or more Indigenous students. But only a handful of these schools are delivering effective literacy and numeracy. Another 40,000 Indigenous students attend underperforming mainstream schools, side-by-side with many more non-Indigenous students. Poor education delivered by these underperforming schools is the principal cause of educational failure in Australia for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Measuring literacy and numeracy 2008–12
The majority of Indigenous students pass NAPLAN tests, but there is also a significant poorly performing minority. Queensland and Western Australia have made the most progress. But other states and territories—and therefore Australia as a whole—are not on track to meet COAG targets. Even where COAG targets will be met by 2018, Indigenous student failure rates will still be above those of non-Indigenous students.

Causes of Indigenous education failure
Evidence shows that indigeneity, remoteness and a non-English speaking background are not the reasons for high Indigenous failure rates. Non-performing schools are the principal cause of Indigenous student failure. Welfare dependence, with entrenched low parental and student expectations, is a major contributing factor.

COAG and Indigenous education
By adopting politically correct rhetoric instead of numeracy and literacy solutions, COAG—the peak government body—contributes to the lack of progress.

Underperforming schools
About 200 Indigenous schools have the lowest NAPLAN results in Australia. A larger group of mainstream schools in cities and towns deliver below average education to their Indigenous and nonIndigenous students. Under existing policies, only a handful of these schools are being reformed.

Indigenous education expenditure
Indigenous education is well funded. Much of the $360 million per year of ‘Indigenous specific’ education expenditure is, however, wasted on counterproductive ‘feel-good,’ ‘culturally appropriate’ programs that take time and attention from classroom instruction.

Trapped by illiteracy on Indigenous lands
The lack of education for the 70,000 Australians living on Indigenous lands is compounded by a lack of job opportunities. In response, governments have created pretend jobs and training programs that lead nowhere.

from section 11: Conclusions and Recommendations
In 2008, Australian governments dropped the target of educational equality for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, replacing it with the soft target of ‘halving the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students by 2018.

NAPLAN results for the four years from 2008 to 2011 show only Queensland and Western Australia making significant progress towards that target; a target that will still see half the students in Indigenous schools in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia fail reading and numeracy tests in 2018.

Targets are easy to set and change when they get too hard. Governments and education departments refuse to face the evidence that school ethos and classroom instruction are at the heart of education problems. The failure to reform welfare also contributes to high failure rates through low expectations and attendance rates.

Indigenous students have the same intellectual capabilities as non-Indigenous students. The children of working Indigenous parents achieve the same NAPLAN results as the children of non-Indigenous parents. The education industry’s focus on indigeneity is a politically driven distraction. So is remoteness and English as a second language. Non-Indigenous remote schools have high NAPLAN achievement rates. Migrant children are taught English successfully.

About 200 Indigenous schools are at the extreme of failing Indigenous performance. The Northern Territory’s more than 40 Homeland Learning Centres, where students do not even have full-time qualified teachers, are at the bottom of Australia’s more than 9,000 schools. Only 200 out of 2,000 students starting in Indigenous schools in 2012 are on a path to mainstream education. Each year, Indigenous schools add 2,000 non-literate and non-numerate teenagers to existing welfare-dependent communities on Indigenous lands.

Underperforming mainstream schools in cities and towns betray both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. The NAPLAN performance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in these schools cannot be fixed without improving the performance of the non-Aboriginal students sitting next to them.

Indigenous education is well funded. Most of the more than $300 million Indigenous-specific expenditure, however, is spent on programs for which there is no evidence of positive impact. These programs are counterproductive because they take time and energy away from classroom teaching.

COAG Council of Australian Governments
NAPLAN National Assessment Plan—Literacy and Numeracy

1 comment:

Joe Lane, Adelaide said...

Hi Bill,
Many years ago, I did an analysis of progression rates for Indigenous students in SA schools, according to whether or not a school would have had an Aboriginal Education Worker (AEW: usually an unqualified person appointed to assist Indigenous students). From the 1994 data, and again from the 1997 data, it appeared that Indigenous students were MORE likely to be enrolled at a school with NO AEW. Specific interventions like that don't seem to work, but as Hughes & Hughes suggest, high expectations, and rigorous, mainstream education seems to. Indigenous students who gain TER (university-entry) scores tended to come from schools with very few Indigenous students, and therefore little likelihood of any specific interventions whatever apart from the forms of support available to all students.
Meanwhile, Indigenous numbers at universities increase at 6-8 % p.a., now that the push to get Indigenous students into Indigenous-focused courses has died: the vast majority, perhaps 96 %, are now enrolled in mainstream courses, at degree- or PG-levels. Enrolments are at record levels, around 12,000, or the equivalent of an entire young-adult age-group. Graduate numbers could total nearly thirty thousand by the end of this year. So how come Indigenous students seem to be doing better at university than in schools ?