Friday, September 7, 2012

Can Indigenous Education Afford to Wait For a Real Response to Gonski?

Scott Ludlam gives a Gonski
Scott Ludlam gives a Gonski (Photo credit: Greens MPs)
by Professor Marie Brennan, Professor Of Education at Victoria University, The Conversation:

In all the discussion, media releases, press conferences and TV coverage of this week’s government response to the Gonski review, it was fascinating that the issue of Indigenous education rated such little mention.

More than the divisions between private and government schooling, the division between the access and experience of education by Indigenous families and non-Indigenous families is most telling about quality and equity in Australia’s schools.

We know there are strong links between low achievement and socio-economic positioning and a growing gap in achievement between those achieving highly and those at the bottom of the scale. But Indigenous students lose out on both counts: they are over-represented in the bottom quartile of achievement and there is a growing distance between their achievement and those at the top.

You would think this would be at the forefront of concerns but the government’s response provided little detail in this area. That is until fortunately The Australian newspaper reported that “the government told The Australian” they would change the Gonski recommendation funding for Indigenous schooling.

Instead of the recommended loading for schools with 5% - 25% Indigenous student enrolment with a sliding scale to 100% Indigenous, the government now apparently will fund every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child in a school.

The overall direction of the announcements Monday and this reassurance on Tuesday were a welcome reversal of a slide in overall education funding per student in which Australia was well below average of OECD countries’ funding. However, we still do not know any details of what is yet to be discussed with the states and territories.

At the moment, we know nothing about the standard base-funding formula per capita to be made available to all schools; the basis of deciding the loading for disadvantage; and the processes for accountability.

Until these core issues are negotiated and made public, it will be almost impossible to tell what differences the funding will make for Indigenous education - particularly whether there is any likelihood of decreasing the gap between Indigenous students and the higher socio-economic students currently privileged in school curriculum and access.

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