The Centre for Policy Development [CPD] has highlighted inequity in the funding of Australia’s schools over the last few years and a growing concentration of disadvantaged students in poorer schools. Uneven Playing Field (2016) and Losing the Game (2017) used My School data to reveal how shared schooling experience in Australia was slipping away.
They have produced a further detailed contribution to the equity debate around schooling and indigenous peoples access to education.
In a Class of Their Own is a new series that extends this analysis, firstly in relation to Indigenous students. It does so a week after the 10th Anniversary of the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples and considers how well Australia is closing the gap of Indigenous disadvantage.
The report states that some inroads have been made in recent years in achieving better educational outcomes for Indigenous students. This paper does not devalue these achievements or the political and policy vision that underpins them. Notwithstanding, My School and other data point to gradual but significant trends that will shape the education of Indigenous students over the long term.
- While most schools have increased their enrolment of Indigenous students in both absolute and percentage terms, the proportion of Indigenous students is far greater in disadvantaged (lower Socio-educational Advantage – SEA) schools.
- These trends are magnified in regional areas where the majority of Indigenous students attend school. Higher SEA schools are not enrolling an increasing share of the Indigenous student population. In fact, they also have a lower proportion of the most disadvantaged students.
- Where schools and school sectors are in competition, the more advantaged (higher SEA) schools have reduced their share of Indigenous students, while two-thirds of less advantaged (lower SEA) schools have increased their share.
- Closer analysis shows that the number of Indigenous students at many schools does not reflect the size of the local Indigenous population. Lower SEA schools have disproportionately more Indigenous enrolments, higher SEA schools in all sectors have (with some exceptions) disproportionately fewer.
The CPD says:
We do not offer specific policy prescriptions but aim to provide a conceptual first step and pointers for future policy action that might address what is a significant and concerning challenge to an equitable and inclusive Australia.
My School shows that Australia had a total of 3,439,088 school students in 2016. Almost 70% attended school in the major cities, just under 30% in regional areas and less than 2% in remote and very remote areas. The distribution of the 200,885 Indigenous students is markedly different, with 36% in the major cities, just under half in the regions and around 15% in remote/very remote areas.
Approximately 85% of Indigenous students attended government schools in 2016, 10% attended Catholic and 5% attended Independent schools. Schools with a high socio-educational advantaged (SEA) enrolment have a low proportion of Indigenous students – regardless of school sector. My School data shows that most localities and school groups have an increasing Indigenous enrolment, especially in lower SEA schools including in regional Australia.
While the achievement gap remains, recent Closing the Gap reports point to a considerable increase in numbers of Indigenous students completing senior high school [and PhD’s]
NAPLAN results are also showing some statistically significant improvements for Indigenous students.