Potential and Deficiency in Indigenous Education Policy: Correction, Elimination, Epistemic Dispossession

Year: 2016

Author: Rudolph, Sophie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Concern over the seemingly intractable problem of Indigenous educational disadvantage in Australia is currently addressed at a policy level in the national, bipartisan policy called Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage. This policy aims to tackle the historical discrimination that has resulted in present day Indigenous disadvantage. In the context of education, this disadvantage is understood statistically in vastly lower Indigenous student achievement in English literacy and numeracy targets, participation in schooling and attainment of secondary education. In this paper I examine the political effects of the discourse of closing the gap in relation to the policy hope of Indigenous educational achievement. Key historical and policy texts addressing the issue of Indigenous educational disadvantage are analysed and reveal the violence of colonialism and its legacies. It is argued that, while the Closing the Gap policy discourse attempts to address the crisis of Indigenous educational disadvantage, it concurrently contributes to a form of epistemic dispossession through ongoing silencing of Indigenous knowledges, hopes and achievements. This pattern of colonial dispossession is explored using settler colonial theory to demonstrate that when the logic of educational success is always-already European, middle-class, capitalist and schooled then anyone achieving and operating outside of this logic is set up to fail in its paradigm. This dilemma, I argue, is submerged within the Closing the Gap policy and consequently has implications for Indigenous educational justice. This paper urges greater attendance to the political mechanisms that continue to pathologise Indigenous students in order to understand more thoroughly the barriers to Indigenous educational justice.