Problematising dominant ways of thinking in Aboriginal education policy

Year: 2017

Author: Burgess, Cathie, Goodwin, Sue, Lowe, Kevin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation presents findings from an analysis of a range of current educational policies enacted by school systems to structure, control and re-construct the relationships between schools, Aboriginal students and their communities. Deploying a poststructural approach to policy analysis (Bacchi and Goodwin, 2016), we have sought to interrogate some of the taken-for-granted ways of thinking apparent in these policies. The focus of this paper is on the repeated assumptions and presuppositions about education, schools, school-family relationships, culture and knowledges that are lodged within the policies.
The analysis suggests that, individually and collectively, these education policies can be understood as representations of 'responsiveness' to Aboriginal students that depend on the problematizing of Aboriginal student achievement, and at the same time leave intact fundamental educational structures directed toward assimilating the Aboriginal student (and their families and communities). By examining the precise ways in which this kind of problematization (ie of Aboriginal people, but not of the education system) is produced in contemporary educational discourses, space is opened up for thinking about possible alternative representations of Aboriginal education 'problems'. Our critical analysis is informed by the quest for policies that are 'responsive' to Aboriginal students in more deeply transformative ways in order to change the current trajectory of Indigenous education.
This analysis is part of a larger audit of research undertaken as part of the Aboriginal Voices project on programs, policies and practices that are seen to impact on the development and implementation of education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.