The unexamined system: Indigenous students' secondary school attendance.
Embargoed until: 2019-05-17
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Since 2008, various Prime Ministers of Australia have used the “closing the gap” report to focus on the low level of school attendance and educational achievement of Indigenous students. Consequentially, new strategies focusing on schools, Indigenous parents and students are implemented, and the following year the Prime Minister repeats the call for improvement. It seems that nothing changes. This cyclical issue raises fundamental questions, “Why does a gap in attendance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students persist, and are there unexamined factors that perpetuate the ‘wicked’ problem?” Perhaps it is not the individual school, teacher, parent or student who is the largest impediment to Indigenous student attendance and academic success. Are there other factors that remain unexamined, including the values and beliefs upon which the practices of the education system are built? Using the methodological approach and tools generated from critical race theory (CRT) this study critically examines Queensland state school data and identifies systemic factors that are preventing or impacting on Indigenous student attendance. Data sets are predominantly reviewed using quantitative analysis techniques, aligning with the current educational focus on policy informed by quantitative rather than qualitative research (Lingard, Creagh, & Vass, 2012). In addition, qualitative methods are used to examine how racism is endemic in educational policies. Key results from this study indicate that, in Queensland, educational policy, decision- making, and practices maintain the white dominant ideology that impacts on Indigenous students’ success, and renders them invisible. The results also demonstrate that Indigenous parents/caregivers and secondary school students’ opinions of school differ from those of their non-Indigenous peers. The thesis presents new understandings of how race continues to impact on the education system and facilitates a rationale for why Indigenous students have a higher rate of non-attendance than their non-Indigenous peers. The evidence base has the potential to change the way blame is apportioned for Indigenous student non-attendance, by shifting the focus from Indigenous parents and students to the education system. The study recommends two practical changes within the education system. Firstly, that an accredited professional development program for both policy makers and senior officers and above within the public service occurs, focusing on unconscious racial bias. Secondly, that a review of public sector policies be undertaken to address the part that seemingly neutral language plays in enabling the ‘wicked’ problem to persist, beginning with the qualitative analysis methods presented in this thesis. Finally, the study suggests that future research should focus on how the legacy of colonisation, in addition to race, impacts on Indigenous students’ educational outcomes. More detailed qualitative research should be undertaken to explicate the reasons for unexplained absences of Indigenous school students. Understandings about unexplained absences will assist in the development of alternative, targeted, evidence based strategies focusing on all areas affecting Indigenous students’ attendance.
Master of Education and Professional Studies Research (MEdProfStRes)
School Educ & Professional St
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
Critical race theory
Indigenous education policy