Principals as Protagonists: Practices Beneficent for Indigenous Education in Rural Schools
The participation and performance of Indigenous students in Australia’s schools is below that of other students and is a matter of national concern. Evidence suggests that the impact on student learning of school principals’ leadership is significant. What then, can school principals do to improve schooling outcomes for Indigenous students? Herein, we discuss research that investigated school principals’ professional practices associated with their leadership of Indigenous education in rural, regional and remote (RRR) schools. Qqualitative research was undertaken using interpretive methodologies and document analysis techniques. Data collected in the period 2012-2014 through evaluations of Indigenous education in thirty one Australian primary, secondary and combined schools, from diverse RRR locations, was used for the research. Principals’ professional practices described in the “Australian Professional Standard for Principals” provided the overall framing for analysis of the data (AITSL, 2014). Principals’ extant practices that shape the ecology of education for Indigenous students in rural schools were identified. Educational leadership that authentically values the culture, agency and beliefs of Indigenous people; that places Indigenous students’ physical, mental, cultural and spiritual wellbeing at the centre of the school’s activities; that actively develops collaborative relationships and networks based on reciprocity, trust, cooperation and civility; that is guided and sustained by humanistic endeavour, makes a significant contribution towards the participation and achievements of Indigenous students.
The article concludes with a framework for leadership of Indigenous education in RRR schools which locates the principal in the role of ‘protagonist’, building bridging social capital around the practices that contribute holistically to the education of Indigenous students.
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