Perspectives on retention of Aboriginal students

Year: 1997

Author: Partington, Gary, Godfrey, John, Harrison, Bernard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Aboriginal students school experiences are the worst of any group in Australia. Many explanations have been put forward for this from a variety of perspectives, from deficit to critical. It is argued in this paper that an amalgamation of interactionist and critical perspectives is desirable to best explain failure, low retention rates, poor attendance and misbehaviour and at the same time enable strategies to overcome these problems. The positioning of Aboriginal students as oppressed, discriminated against and alienated in classrooms and schools, combined with a perception of them as active resisters of schooling is only one part of the story. In order to establish a context in which these negative expressions of power can be overcome for Aboriginal students, schools and teachers must acknowledge the cultural expectations, values and culturally constructed behaviours which define their identity. Until serious efforts are made to change the structures of schooling in line with Aboriginal students identity needs, resistance to perceived oppression will continue.