HOOLEY, Neil. Dr Hooley, educator, slams racist Australian education system that excludes Indigenous children

Dr Neil Hooley is a lecturer in Educastion, Teacher Education, Curriculum, Literacy,  Indigenous at Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (see: http://theconversation.edu.au/profiles/neil-hooley-4959 ).

 

Dr Neil Hooley on a racist Australian education system that excludes Indigenous children (2011):There is no excuse for Indigenous education in Australia to be in such a terrible and shameful state. Given the billions of dollars that are allocated to primary and secondary schooling Australia-wide, the basis of the problem must be deeply rooted ideologically and educationally. The question of racism in the current curriculum must therefore be exposed. We need an indigenous curriculum that will cater to the needs of aboriginal students and help strengthen their communities… There is no reason why the principles of learning supported by Indigenous peoples cannot be incorporated across the curriculum for all children. There is a remarkable overlap of intent between these principles and those that underpin inquiry learning and which have been acted upon with integrity by progressive educators over the past one hundred years. To not do so for Indigenous interest is inherently racist. There may be anxiety from some parents and opposition from some teachers when the implications of a truly democratic and inquiry curriculum are confronted. It is, however, time for Australia to make this transition, to benefit the learning of all children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. A curriculum which shamefully and knowingly disadvantages Indigenous children cannot be tolerated any longer.” [1].

 

[1]. Neil Hooley, “The nations’ shame: A racist education system that excludes Indigenous children”, The Conversation, 18 November 2011: http://theconversation.edu.au/the-nations-shame-a-racist-education-system-which-excludes-indigenous-children-3913 .


Comment by Dr Gideon Polya: "I offered the following comment on Dr Hooley's article:

 

Excellent article. I agree that Australia is grossly failing in the education of Indigenous children and Indigenous Australians in general. This educational failure has appalling downstream effects on aboriginal mortality and aboriginal avoidable mortality. Thus the annual death rate is 2.2% for Indigenous Australians and 2.4% for Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory  as compared to 2.4% for sheep in Australian paddocks  The avoidable death rate (the rate of deaths that should not occur in a decently run society) is estimated to be 1.8% for Indigenous Australians, 2.0% for Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory as compared to 1.0% for sub-Saharan, non-Arab Africa, 0.4% for South Asia  and 0.1% for Western Europe (see Gideon Polya, “The Awful Truth”,  National Indigenous Times, 14 June 2007: http://www.nit.com.au/news/story.aspx?id=11552  and “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/  ).

 

I have been teaching at the tertiary level for about 40 years and have a tertiary teaching qualification in addition to my first degree and PhD. I applaud your suggestion of an urgent and indeed fundamental need for a curriculum tailored to the needs of Indigenous children. That after all is what any good teacher does for his/her students. Australia already has a system of Educational Apartheid that disproportionately excludes the majority of Australian children attending Government schools from university, top universities and from top courses (simply check outcomes on My School and see “Educational Apartheid”: https://sites.google.com/site/educationalapartheid/  ). However the disastrous Educational Apartheid in relation to Indigenous children in Australia is “inherently racist”. As you say  “A curriculum which shamefully and knowingly disadvantages Indigenous children cannot be tolerated any longer.” Some suggestions below that might be helpful.

 

1. The Australian Academy of Sciences developed science teaching programs for primary and secondary school children  that according to Professor Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Sciences, were very successful with Indigenous children, very likely because of the empirical, observation-based  nature of these programs (see Suzanne Cory’s recent address to the National Press Club: http://www.npc.org.au/speakerarchive/professor-suzanne-corey.html  ). This year the Australian Government cancelled funding for these initiatives.

 

2. Further to point #1, Dame Mary Gilmore provides eye-witness testimony in her books about the acutely observation-based Aboriginal education of children in 19th century Victoria and Riverina e.g.  children being trained to remember a “tray” of a dozen objects; children being sent to sleep by being asked to “count the stars”; and a counting system on a base 5, there being 5 fingers on each hand  (Mary Gilmour learned this system and  was regularly asked by drivers to rapidly  determine how many sheep they had).

 

3. There used to be about 500 Indigenous tribal groups and 250 languages. Perhaps 50 Aboriginal languages survive. The demand for most instruction in a foreign language (English) is akin to the ethnocidal  English prohibition of the speaking of Welsh in Welsh schools in 19th century Wales (see "Aboriginal Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/aboriginalgenocide/  ).

 

4. Friends who have variously taught in remote Aboriginal communities tell of the key importance of tribal culture (highly disruptive when different groups are forced together), interest and skill in IT,  and radical improvement in school attendance when linked to genuine interest (most notably Australian rules football).

 

5. There needs to be a curriculum consonant with Indigenous cultures that excites the interest if children – high levels of truancy must not be tolerated  but appalling non-attendance can be positively tackled by such curricula as well as sporting programs (the Australian football coaching example – participation required and obtained zero truancy) , free lunch programs, intergroup competitions, IT and other areas of acute skill and interest,  and return of the Academy of Science science teaching program or tailored versions thereof.

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