Website will shine light on Indigenous schools

THE recently unveiled schools website will make many educators uncomfortable. But then we should all be uncomfortable about the Third World outcomes being delivered to indigenous children in an advanced and prosperous country such as Australia.

 

As an Aboriginal father with children in school, I demand to know about their school performance and how the school is performing in comparison to others.

 

Publishing attendance rates, literacy results and numeracy results and linking to each school’s website provides a rich set of data, evidence that will allow us to plan for future improvement. Fundamentally it will help us move beyond the historically dominant assumption that indigenous people are broken and need fixing, to a new era in which we seriously contemplate new ways of doing business, in ways that build on the strengths of Aboriginal people.

 

Some of the cautious sentiments expressed by principals at the national forum in Canberra two weeks ago are understandable. The website will not be perfect. But any move to increase transparency in the education system, that will help focus improvement in indigenous communities is a step forward. The federal government is almost doubling its investment in schools to more than $62 billion during the next four years, which is good news. But communities and taxpayers need assurance that this level of investment is making a difference. School communities must have evidence to be able to debate how the resources are being used and what difference these resources are making to students.

 

Many educators will rightly argue that the website will not properly account for the complexity of school contexts and family backgrounds. This is absolutely true, but this does not mean we should excuse low expectations or poor performance in these areas. As educators in the 21st century we also need to accept that we do not have a monopoly on knowledge and information.

 

In a democracy we cannot accept the censoring of information or restrict access to certain privileged groups. Everyone has a right to have access to information and the option of asking questions or engaging in debates about its meaning.

 

Schools that already have partnerships of trust with their communities have nothing to fear from the schools website. The new focus on transparency has raised the stakes for higher performance and increased community engagement, which is a positive step.

 

The talk for schools and educators is to engage with their communities to ensure that there are proper processes for analysing and discussing the information.

 

From my work at the Stronger Smarter Institute I have found that the key to improvement is community engagement.

 

Quality educators can identify key areas for improvement and have a central database to track their progress and compare themselves with other schools in similar situations. One of the key opportunities will be the capacity to identify high-performing schools and learn from their positive and negative experiences. The other is identifying schools that are struggling and need help, in a landscape where, inevitably, schools will struggle. What is crucial here is the mechanism to identify such schools and create an environment in which we say, “Let’s talk about where you need help here.”

 

The schools website will allow us to move on from the era of deficit thinking when we blamed poor results on students who were supposedly unable or unwilling to learn. Yes, the website will enable the media to highlight schools experiencing difficulties, but it will also enable us to identify high performing schools that can then be used to provide ideas, strategies and stories to facilitate positive improvement plans for others.

 

Schools should welcome the opportunity to pressure government and bureaucracies to resource schools according to need and context. Educators will be able to talk to comparable schools across the country, to discuss planning, strategies and resourcing to ensure that they have equitable resources to deliver high-level student outcomes.

 

Undoubtedly the website will make many educators and communities uneasy, but I can assure them that their discomfort does not compare with that of an Aboriginal youth with limited or no education.

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4 Responses

  1. nice post. good luck with the blog and keep up the good content coming.

  2. well researched article. Thumbs up!

  3. This was a really great read, thank you so much for taking time to put it together! Touched on some very good ideas. I’ll certainly be back soon

  4. yo good blog yea nice work amazing stuff thanx

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