New effort needed to improve Indigenous education

Media release

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Wednesday, 18 Feb 2004

MEDIA RELEASE Wednesday 18 February 2004 New effort needed to improve Indigenous education The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) today called for the establishment of a new and rigorous national research agenda into ways of improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students. The call coincides with the release of a review of Indigenous education research and policy which argues that, despite good intentions and considerable funding in recent years, educational outcomes for Indigenous students remain well behind those of non-Indigenous students. The newly released review—A Case for Change: a review of contemporary research on Indigenous educational outcomes—by ACER researchers Suzanne Mellor and Matthew Corrigan, argues that Indigenous education policy in Australia continues to be too loosely based on research findings, contributing to a slow improvement in outcomes for Indigenous students. “Our review of the research shows that, while there have been some improvements over the past decade, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous educational outcomes remains unacceptably large,” said ACER’s chief executive Professor Geoff Masters. “We should not be satisfied with recent levels of improvement.” The review concludes that research in Indigenous education tends to have been based on analyses of Indigenous students’ test results with little consideration of school or social contexts, or on small case studies of learning problems faced by specific groups of Indigenous students. Research aimed at improving outcomes for Indigenous students also has tended to be isolated from broader considerations of the impact of teacher quality, teacher professional development and students’ levels of readiness for formal education, and has been inadequately informed by advances in developmental psychology, paediatrics, sociology and public and community health. The authors argue that much research overemphasises the uniqueness of the Indigenous experience of education. “Our review suggests that too much emphasis has been placed on the belief that learning is different for Indigenous students,” Professor Masters said. “Indigenous education programs should focus more on what the research tells us about the foundations of good teaching and learning generally.” A Case for Change calls for changes in both the kinds of questions addressed and the methods currently used in Indigenous education research. ****************ENDS*************