Leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education
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What works to overcome Indigenous disadvantage?
How do these principles and practices look in your school?
What are the challenges for you in establishing them?
What good ideas can you share?
I think that sometimes we tend to focus too much on the academic readiness and the early 'academic achievements' in the early childhood phase...and not enough focus on the cultural safety thing that you're talking about......for kids at this stage, the world of school is a whole new thing and the school culture can be so alienating for them.
I have seen some of the materials from SNAICC.....they are really good around this cultural stuff ....they give some good reminders for non-Indigenous teachers like me....
The transition from home to educational setting is an absolute marker for success for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The way organisations bring their communities into the organisatiuons learning spaces must be manged carefully and include the entire cohort of children - this is just as important in transition to a Pre School, Kidergarten, Kinder start program or formal schooling.
The presence of local community members working in the institution is one of many things that can be done to make the early years embracing of culture and community. Developing an environment of cultural respect that celebrates, achknowledges and supports the local culture is also important.
How schools and pre schools go about their communication with community needs to include an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander connector - a local community member.
Far too many of our kids are still missing the vital 3 to 5 year old experiences in the white education paradigm with a strong two way cultural connection. Year 3 Naplan resulkts are a constant reflection of our failure to connect with families in the 2 years prior to formal schooling.
I sometimes wonder if it is the chicken or the egg situation.
Beginning the schooling process with good skills or finishing the (compulsory) schooling process with a sense of achievement? - that is a question.
As a high school leader, developing a connection to school and especially a feeling that school is relevent to the student and will provide the student with a sense that they can be successfull is a step (whether it is the first step or just a giant one is debatable) that needs addressing if disadvantage is to be overcome.
I think that school relevance is strongly linked with employment and learning skills for the world of work.
I believe our curriculum needs to be more closely linked to supporting aspirations and building skills that are transferable to higher learning and employment.
I believe this to be an extremely complex issue and one obviously that is not solved easily. However discussing this issue with the Indigenous community members frequently over the past ten years, one thing is certain, they want: self-determination. We are still offering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a 'space' in a dominantly 'Western' education system.
With the introduction of the National Curriculum, it is important to 'take the school to the community' - Indigenous people have been promised many things over the last 200 years and still the fight for equity, equality and the right for their voices to be heard when making decisions that will impact on the future of their children and their Grandchildren.
As educators and leaders we must have the courage to speak up and 'dare to be inclusive' otherwise we will have to wait many more years to see the changes that we desperately need. Unfortunately, most (not all) in Leadership positions, as well in the general area of teaching do not have the cultural knowledge or experience to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples'. It must start with the leaders in schools to make genuine connections to Indigenous community leaders.
I agree Grace, I think it is a very complex issue to wrestle with although not being based in Australia, I am not in a position to comment on the promises made to indigenous communities.
In New Zealand we have a significant number of Maori students in many of our schools and their acheivement is typically lower than that of their european and asian counterparts. However, since New Zealand is officially a bi-cultural country (european and maori) our curriculum is focussed on the incorporation of both cultures into the school environment and the idea that Maori have an opportunity to succeed as Maori.
However, this is not a simple issue and I think it is fair to say that we have similar issues in relation to the integration of our indigenous community (especially within many urban schools).
One successful intervention renowned in NZ and beyond is the Te Kotahitanga Programme. This is a research and professional development programme that takes a collaborative response to education where an "effective teacher profile" was created through a collaboration between Maori students, parents, elders, the wider community and obviously the teachers themselves. This was not only found to be efective at raising the achievement and engagement of Maori students but alos had a positive outcome on other ethnicities in the same setting.
Check out http://bit.ly/MyBuMj for more information on this....
I know having spoken with Dave Faulkner (of Education Changemakers Australia) that success stories in relation to Aboriginal settings exist. Is there anything as structured as Te Kotahitanga I could take a look at?
In many cases the educational systems remain less than progressive in providing schools structures and curriculums that are supportive of especially first nation people. I do see change however.
Across the states and especially in New South Wales, my home state, effort is being made by systems to provide greater cultural emersion and use local Aboriginal educations organisations to "control" the agenda.
The result, including in regions where the schools dont have large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, has been very positive with school leaders hungry for ideas to support their Aboriginal and torres Strait islander students. These ideas are now starting to appear on school plans and engagement of Community is a common priority.
Some good cases studies do exist Chris - have a look at www.daretolead.edu.au which offers support for school leaders to improve outcomes for Indigenous students.
Still planty to do but change is taking place........!
Thanks for the information and link - I will definitely take a look. A couple of success stories are:
The Irrkerlantye Learning Centre & the Artekerre Mending the Broken Spirit projects, both offer a holistic model of education for Indigenous students. I am not sure if Irrkelantye is still running. These projects offered opportunities for Indigenous students/learners guided by strong community support/structures and mentors. There are many other programs/projects happening. My concern is that quite a few of the projects/programs instigated are subject to funding and once this has expired - they are difficult to resource and continue. The best possible scenario is when Indigenous cultural studies and perspectives are included right across the curriculum and yes this is happening, but very slowly and sometimes with little or no consultation with community and little or no knowledge from those who are attempting to do this.
In New Zealand we have a strong focus on enabling our Maori students to achieve as Maori. With this in mind, we are striving to meet two objectives:
1. Ensure Maori students are prepared for a life in a predominantly European dominated society.
2. Ensuring they achieve as Maori and have the opportunity to succeed in their own specific cultural context. This may include language, arts, traditional practices, oral history...
Do my Aussie colleagues have similar foci? How does an Aboriginal student achieve as an Aboriginal Australian..?
Since their are so many distinct groups of first peoples (with unique languages and culture) surely this needs to be a process led at a local level rather than a national level (as is more likely to work here in NZ)?
I must admit I find the comparision of the challenges on both sides of the Tasman to be fascinating...