Repurposing schooling for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and communities

Year: 2017

Author: Mayes, Daniels

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purposes of education varies with both time and place depending on the dominant political, economic, social and cultural circumstances. However, according to Schofield (2010, p. 7) education is generally understood to be an essentially optimistic human enterprise characterised by goals of progress and betterment. Furthermore, Tom Calma (2006) states that education: " fundamental to the development of human potential and to full participation in a democratic society". Yet schooling is not working for increasing numbers of young people, particularly for many living in disadvantage (Smyth, McInerney & Hattam 2003, p. 178). This "not working" for Aboriginal students is well documented within both educational scholarship and government strategies such as Close the Gap.

This paper draws on the findings of a research project that sought to identify significant factors that have the potential for improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal students. The research took place in two metropolitan high schools and was framed by the theoretical framework of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy infused with the tenets of Critical race Theory. A key finding of this ethnographic study was that if schooling is to be of benefit for Aboriginal students, families and their communities, then the current purpose of schooling needs to be 'repurposed'. In this paper I will examine the Three identified key purposes of successful Aboriginal education: students must get their education; students must develop and/or maintain cultural pride; and students must develop a critical cultural consciousness so that they can represent the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.