The persistent achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students underscores the importance of needs-based funding in education, according to ACER researchers.
In an ACER Occasional Essay titled, ‘Unfinished business: PISA shows Indigenous youth are being left behind’, ACER Principal Research Fellow Mr Tony Dreise and ACER Director of Educational Monitoring and Research Dr Sue Thomson explore the implications for policy and practice of the persistent achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
‘A renewed and highly targeted approach is required to correct the downward trend,’ Dreise and Thomson write.
As Dreise and Thomson note, while figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Census of Population and Housing show that school attendance and completion rates for Indigenous Australians increased between 2006 and 2011, results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) reveal that Australia’s Indigenous 15-year-olds remain around two-and-a-half years behind their non-Indigenous peers.
‘Unless educational outcomes for Indigenous young people vastly improve, then the downstream impact and cost in terms of social wellbeing, welfare, health, employment and economic sufficiency will be heavy,’ Dreise and Thomson write.
Despite a raft of initiatives in Indigenous education, and Indigenous affairs more broadly, over the past decade, Dreise and Thomson note that key indicators point to little gain or ‘mixed results’ at best. For example, reports from the New South Wales and Victorian Auditors-General and from the Commonwealth Department of Finance indicate that Indigenous programs have either failed dismally, or have not achieved their objectives, or were unable to demonstrate that they have achieved their objectives.
The way forward, according to Dreise and Thomson, lies in needs-based education funding that addresses the overlapping layers of disadvantage faced by many learners.
‘Smart and highly targeted investment in early intervention literacy and numeracy programs, teacher quality improvement, school leadership and personalised learning support are key to turning results around,’ Dreise and Thomson write.
‘Schools that adopt multifaceted approaches to Indigenous educational performance, including quality teaching; systematic student and teacher assessment, monitoring and feedback; personalised learning for students; ongoing professional learning for teachers; school leadership and community partnership, are more likely reap rewards and turn results around.’ ■