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Teacher Involvement in Australian Indigenous Education Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2020

Indigenous education in Australia has been the focus in achieving equity in the education system. Government agencies, as well as international organizations in Australia have formulated numerous policies and repeated inquiries intended to focus on the provision of equitable education among all Australian citizens. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, commonly known as the Indigenous people, have been experiencing social problems ranging from housing, health, employment, and education sector. According to Ford (2013, p. 80), there has been huge discrepancies in the educational services offered to the indigenous and non-indigenous people across the continent.

Even though such inequalities still exist, the author acknowledges the historical decrease in the achievement gap between the two groups of people. Teachers being critical role players in bringing change by influencing behavior in society, the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) have to inculcate them in designing a curriculum that aims at instilling reconciliation between non-indigenous and indigenous people (Bartlett, 2002).

In understanding the key concepts of theories like the Critical Race Theory, teachers would be able to understand the genesis of such discriminatory attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets, thus instituting necessary measure to demystify them. The report looks into the need for teachers to develop a critical reflection and comprehension of the vital issues affecting the indigenous people in Australia. In addition, it reflects on the significance of raising such issues affecting the indigenous people.

With scholars recognizing the presence of deep discrimination in the Australian society, teachers and other educational facilitators should comprehend the historical needs of the indigenous and non-indigenous people to offer inclusive education. This group of Australians is approximately 517,000 in number. Notably, their high level of discrimination in all sectors has made life after school a great nightmare. Since teachers are the instillers of knowledge, in using the provisions of the Critical Race Theory (CRT), they can be the agents of change in making all their learners comprehend and acknowledge the significance of the indigenous culture (What is Critical Race Theory?, 2009).

Notably, ACARA has noted the significance of reconciliation by including all perspectives touching on the Aboriginal people into Key Learning Areas (KLA) (Gray & Beresford, 2008, p. 200). By adding the viewpoints of indigenous people into the national curriculum, the Australian government aims at ensuring that citizens from all states learn, comprehend, and appreciate the cultural practices of the indigenous people. In the education system, teachers play vital roles; they can opt to pass across wrong information to the receivers.

Therefore, teachers remain the key fulcrum of the cultural demystification process. Clearly, involvement of teachers in understanding the key issues of the aboriginal people is significant, as they are the final implementers of the curriculum. With Rahman (2013, p. 663) acknowledging the dominance of the white culture practices and values, the involvement of teachers in reducing the achievement gap remains imperative. Awareness creation among teachers from the non-indigenous people will make it possible for their learners to comprehend the need to accept the Aboriginal language and culture in the learning environment.

From this approach, learners from the indigenous people would conceptualize the true existence of classrooms for all. Therefore, to engage Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students effectively, applying school-based approaches like adopting a bi-cultural education and culturally responsive education is quite worthwhile (Keddie, Gowlett, Mills, Monk, and Renshaw, 2013, p. 94). In this dimension, teachers’ inclusion is inevitable.

For that reason, teachers need to understand the concepts of Critical Race Theory; it makes them understand how deeply rooted racism is in the system and fabrics of the Australian society. CRT notes that people need to know that institutional racism is prevalent in the principal culture. Teachers in the dominant culture in Australia have to conceptualize the whole idea of equity in order to instill the same in their learners.

CRT comes out to challenge the legal provision that says the law is colorblind and neutral by noting that the power structures favor the whites and propagates the marginalization of the black community. Moreover, the theory discredits the traditions of meritocracy that everyone who works hard can be wealthy and powerful; CRT argues that the meritocracy and liberalism traditions ignore the systematic disparities that formal racism offers.

From this perspective, to empower the disadvantaged groups in any society, there must be a total reform of the educational system, as it is the bedrock of multidimensional inequality. Aside from race, sexual orientation, class, sex, and nationality also account for disempowerment. Gray and Beresford (2008, p. 200) recognize the existence of many oppressions facing the people of color worldwide.

According to the National Schools Statistics Collection, Educational attainment and school retention of the Indigenous people is increasing. For example, the continent realized an increase of 3% for Aboriginal Australians aged 15years who had finished Year 12 between 2001 and 2012 (Jelinek & Li, 2013). Besides, there are strong correlations between the level of education attainment and income, heath, and employment. Education has a direct impact on a person’s economic outcomes. In involving teachers in encouraging Aboriginal people to pursue education, there are higher chances of increasing the number of indigenous people in full-time employment in Australia (A statistical overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia: Social Justice Report 2008, 2009).

Cottrell (2010, p. 226) believes that high levels of education decreases a person’s chances of engaging in health risk behaviors like drug abuse; it also reduces the rates of long-term health conditions, as the learned group would consume balanced diets and engage in exercises. Clearly, when teachers understand such historical data, as well as the need to have a competitive and just society, the whole concept of discrimination will be an issue of the past as Ford (2012, p. 9) predicts.

The National Reform Agreement is an important document in the Australian plan to reduce the gap in indigenous disadvantage. This initiative requires the involvement of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, individuals, and communities in order to improve the opportunities of the Aboriginal Australians.

Apart from the family unit and religious institutions, schools are very important centers of socialization. Since most of the early stages of human growth and development occur in these institutions, teachers are the right people to shape the thinking and ideologies of the Australian citizens as a whole. An inclusive view of such impacts works towards realizing the objectives of the pacts between the Commonwealth Government and State and Territory Governments of Closing the Gap Agenda and promoting social inclusion.

The issue of inequality can be well fought from the formal systems like schools. Teachers, with the spirit of CRT, will work towards removing all obstacles fostering racial oppression, and adopt the social theory approach of creating a national system (What is Critical Race Theory?, 2009). From this view, the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians will learn to avoid ethnocentric attitudes and beliefs that have been engrained in their respective cultures. Having mentioned that the issues of indigenous people cut across all sectors of the Australian economy, such as education, employment, property ownership, health, social relations, and public services, teachers will be in a position to develop an expansive view of designing the solutions to the problems.

For instance, instructors will use range of approaches to handle the situation like the current National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week and the marking of Sorry Day in most schools across the continent. On these occasions, students from all the racial divides learn about the Aboriginal culture, such as music, art, and games. As Keddie et al. (2013, p. 98) link good training to a robust teamwork among instructors, schools provide a ripe platform for teachers to weave the indigenous culture and knowledge into the fabrics of the Australian national curriculum.

Additionally, teachers as agents of change are closer to the local communities than the educational officials from the Commonwealth, Territory, and State Governments. Undoubtedly, teachers interact with parents from both the races, as well as other key stakeholders at the local levels. The pedagogy of the classroom, as Harrison and Greenfield (2011, p. 68) observe, is instrumental in enhancing the interaction between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia.

Schooling is a vital approach of solving key economic, social, and political issues that affect oppressed people in a society. From the foregoing analysis, the involvement of teachers has been instrumental in changing the historically deeply rooted cultures in the lives of Australian communities. Apart from taking more time with the final consumers or beneficiaries of the curriculum, teachers interact with many stakeholders of the education system. This provides them with many opportunities to engage actively in changing the attitudes and perceptions of the society as a whole. Learning changes the perception of students; it empowers graduates economically, as they are able to go up the employment ladder. In being able to learn and appreciate other people’s culture and values, the Australian society is on a brink of fostering peace and national unity.

References

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Bartlett, A. (2002). The aboriginal peoples of Australia. Minneapolis: Lerner.

Cottrell, M. (2010). Indigenous Education in Comparative Perspective: Global Opportunities for Reimagining Schools. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), 1(4), 223-227. Web.

Ford, M. (2013). Achievement gaps in Australia: What NAPLAN reveals about education inequality in Australia. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(1), 80-102.

Gray, J., & Beresford, Q. (2008). A ‘formidable challenge’: Australia’s quest for equity in Indigenous education. Australian Journal of EducationAustralian Journal of Education, 52(2), 197-223.

Harrison, N., & Greenfield, M. (2011). Relationship to place: positioning Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives in classroom pedagogies. Critical Studies in Education, 52(1), 65-76.

Jelinek, P., & Li, I. W. (2013). Education in Australia: Cultural influences, global perspectives and social challenges. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Keddie, A., Gowlett, C., Mills, M., Monk, S., & Renshaw, P. (2013). Beyond culturalism: Addressing issues of Indigenous disadvantage through schooling. Australian Educational Researcher, 40(1), 91-108.

Rahman, K. (2013). Belonging and learning to belong in school: The implications of the hidden curriculum for indigenous students. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(5), 660-672.

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