Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Indigenous Education Report Misses the Big Picture

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Edu...
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Dr Bill Fogarty, Research Associate, National Centre for Indigenous Studies at Australian National University, on The Conversation:

Dr Bill Fogarty has lived, worked and researched in remote communities for 15 years and has extensive experience in research on Indigenous education, development and service provision.

Any work that shines a spotlight on the appalling state of education for Indigenous Australians is to be welcomed. And so Helen and Mark Hughes are to be commended for their latest effort, a report called Indigenous Education 2012 released by the Centre for Independent Studies.

But the report shows some glaring misunderstandings about Indigenous education and the Hughes team have continued to promulgate simplistic arguments about what is a wicked policy problem.

As someone who has spent years teaching literacy and numeracy in remote communities and researching Indigenous education issues, I find their analysis of Indigenous education in Australia worrying.

Only half the picture

In a series of publications since 2004, Helen Hughes has blamed poor Indigenous student outcomes on “separatist” education in the Northern Territory, “socialist experiments”, land rights, poor quality teachers, bilingual education, postmodern teaching techniques, Indigenous specific programs and welfare dependence.

The latest paper adds “school failure” and “pretend jobs” to this list. While such assertions may find resonance in those who have limited knowledge of Indigenous education, they must be examined against reality.

The Hughes' research fails to grasp the well-established causal relationships between systemic neglect, socio-economic disadvantage, geographic isolation and poor health with educational outcomes.

These structural determinants of educational achievement are well-noted in research throughout the world, regardless of ethnicity, location or educational approach.

Instead of acknowledging these factors as key barriers to be overcome in partnership with communities, their research denigrates the efforts of the people involved in education and community development. They do this through a naive attribution of blame.

A dose of reality

Indigenous education is characterised by a diversity of lifestyle and geographic location, differing histories of engagement with non-Indigenous Australia and a wide spectrum of aspirations for development.

Furthermore, the daily routine of school in remote communities takes place against depressingly high rates of unemployment, early mortality, poor health, violence, crime, substance abuse and youth self harm and suicide.

Any consideration of education in remote regions of places like the Northern Territory must recognise the relationship between levels of attainment and poverty, health, housing, access to government services, infrastructure and socio-economic status.

These factors are not excuses for poor outcomes. They combine to constitute the reality within which teachers, students and parents battle every day to raise literacy and numeracy standards. These are the people that make up the schools that Helen Hughes wants to blame for failure.

Who to blame?

Rather than blaming teachers, parents and schools we need to ameliorate devastating legacies of poor health and underinvestment and get pedagogic approaches right. One example of how social variables can contribute to poor educational attainment in remote areas is the prevalence of hearing loss through ear infections.

To read further, go to:
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment