Educational Outcomes For Aboriginal School Students In Tasmania: Is The Achievement Gap Closing?
A quality education is a basic societal right. Yet for many Aboriginal students that right is not yet a reality. This paper focuses on the situation of Aboriginal/palawa school students in Tasmania and employs a quantitative methodology to examine the comparative educational achievements of Aboriginal school students. State level Grade 3, 5, 7 and 9 numeracy and reading test results from the National Assessment Program of Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) 2008 - 2016 support the analysis. Results indicate that Aboriginal students remain more likely to be at or below minimum literacy and numeracy standards than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. It is also found that Aboriginal students’ academic achievement declines as they move through the schooling system. Further, Aboriginal students are less likely to partake in NAPLAN due to higher absenteeism on test days. These results are discussed in the context of education policy and the broader national and international literature on factors influencing academic achievement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students. Despite an increasing awareness and the development of strategic policies to address Aboriginal educational inequality, it is evident that little has changed between 2008 and 2016. It is strongly argued that Aboriginal students’ underachievement is more likely tied to schooling and policy environments that do not adequately meet their needs, rather than the students themselves. As such, policies and interventions that create long term, embedded improvement of Aboriginal students’ schooling experiences and the engagement of their families and communities are a prerequisite for improving Aboriginal student outcomes.
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