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ISFIRE 14 Feb 2013 Red dirt thinking on educational disadvantage: John Guenther, Sam Osborne, Melodie Bat
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ISFIRE 14 Feb 2013 Red dirt thinking on educational disadvantage: John Guenther, Sam Osborne, Melodie Bat


Presentation to ISFIRE 14 Feb 2013 by John Guenther

Presentation to ISFIRE 14 Feb 2013 by John Guenther

Published in Education
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  • Let's hope the discourse of disadvantage for remote communities changes and a new era of change is made from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standpoint. Fantastic work John, Sam & Melodie.
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  • 1. Red dirt thinkingon educationaldisadvantage John Guenther Sam Osborne Melodie Bat
  • 2. Red Dirt Thinking• Thinking grounded in the context of remote Australia• Thinking which reflects the vast openness of possibilities• The utopian of the ‘blue sky’ versus the pragmatic reality of the ‘red dirt’ 2
  • 3. The discourse of remote Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander educational disadvantage • Disparity • Gap to be closed • Deficit difference • Remoteness 3
  • 4. Risks of the disadvantage discourse • Indigeneity is the disadvantage • Who defines advantage and on what basis? • ‘Exceptionalism’ on the basis of race • Reinforces existing power dynamics and reproduces itself 4
  • 5. The data used to support the discourse• Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 2011a) • Lower school attendance and enrolment rates; • Poorer teacher quality (though no data are offered on this one); • A lack of Indigenous Cultural Studies in school curricula (again no data to support this); • Low levels of Year 9 attainment; • Low levels of Year 10 attainment; and • Difficulties in the transition from school to work. Proportion of 20-64 year olds with non-school qualifications at Certificate III or higher Remote* 2002 2008 Aboriginal and Torres 14.4% 18.4% Strait Islander Non-Indigenous 38.6% 45.5% The gap widens 5
  • 6. The data used to support the discourse • NAPLAN Aboriginal and Torres Strait Non-Indigenous Islander(Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2011, pp. 18-19) 6
  • 7. Measuring Australia’s Progress • Diversity within an Australia with homogenous aspirations and outcomes expectations 7
  • 8. Assumptions behind the discourse and data • Philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of Australia’s education system: From Aristotle, Plato and Socrates through to Rousseau, Dewey and Coleman • The discourse of education and individualism (see Carr, 2010) • Discourse of education and social theories (see Dewey, 1938, Friere, 1970, Coleman, 1990) • The development discourse and education (see Leadbeater, 2012) • The knowledge and skills discourse (Siegel, 2010) 8
  • 9. A frame of reference for educational advantage inAustralia Psychology of education Economics of education Knowledge system, Paid work Identity Productive systems reasoning and logic Critical thinking Individual Self-actualisation knowledge and Choice Wealth creation skills Self-expression Education and schooling Personal agency Civic participation and control Socialisation Civic engagement Democracy Power and control Belief systems Norms and values Belonging to the nation Philosophy of education Sociology of education 9
  • 10. Indicators of advantage • Transitions to employment (high achievement is rewarded with better paid work); • Further and higher education transitions (high achievement in literacy and numeracy unlocks the world of critical thinking); • Occupational destination and status (increased status yields greater individual wealth); • Career choice (the broader the range of choices the greater the apparent personal agency); and • Progress and aspiration (a better education leads to societal and national progress). 10
  • 11. Conversely, indicators of disadvantage: • Higher levels of unemployment; • Low achievement in English language literacy and numeracy • Low levels of wealth; • Higher levels of welfare dependence; • Social marginalisation; and • Disengagement from the democratic process. 11
  • 12. Towards a new discourse of success in remote learning • What would happen for example if we underpinned our new system with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander philosophies? • What would happen if we incorporated into our system a new set of norms and values, identities and knowledge systems? • What would happen if we built into our new curriculum, a set of values that reflected internationally recognised expectations of equality, responsibility, participation, cooperation, dignity, freedom, security, peace, protection (conservation), respect, dialogue, integrity, diversity, tolerance, justice, solidarity (de Leo, 2012 Appendix 18)? • Would the strong focus on individual learning be replaced by a cooperative approach? • Would civic participation be replaced by something completely different? • Would the education system start with the premise of schooling or some other teaching and learning structure? • What would happen if the outcomes of education were reshaped to better suit the needs of people living in remote communities? 12
  • 13. Data and assumptions• Data tell us that remote schools are failing and in some cases the ‘gap’ is widening.• But data is built on assumptions• The assumptions reveal that the presence of system elements and outcomes related to work, wealth, critical thinking, personal agency and control as well as democracy and belonging to the nation, frame the indicators and therefore the rhetoric of educational advantage.• The absence of these system elements and outcomes is therefore reflected in the discourse of disadvantage.• The question we have is: What would an advantageous education look like in remote Australia? 13
  • 14. Contact John Guenther 0412 125 661 Melodie Bat 0427 226 561 Sam Osborne 0408 719 939 Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation 14
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