Concerns over NT remote education failure

Aaron BunchAAP
The NT's remote education plan has been criticised as 'one size fits all' for Indigenous students.
Camera IconThe NT's remote education plan has been criticised as 'one size fits all' for Indigenous students. Credit: AAP

The Northern Territory government has failed to adequately consult Indigenous communities for its new remote education strategy, an Aboriginal leader says.

The NT Education Department is set to launch a revamped student engagement strategy in the coming weeks to improve educational outcomes.

It says the policy is a game-changer that will prioritise Aboriginal languages and focus on culturally responsive practice reflecting Indigenous communities and students.

But Independent member of the NT parliament Yingiya (Mark) Guyula says community voices have been ignored and many remote community schools are in crisis.

"We are diverse peoples with diverse requirements and yet every few years we are all subject to the same new policy or new strategy that has been developed in Darwin," the Member for Mulka, in the territory's remote northeast, said in a statement on Monday.

Mr Guyula called on the NT Education Minister Lauren Moss to delay the new Education Engagement Strategy so elders and communities can be consulted to create local solutions.

"The NT government is talking about Treaty, self-determination, local decision-making and community-controlled schools but not holding their departments accountable to these crucial values," he said.

Mr Guyula said the department held invitation-only meetings in a few communities, and more voices need to be heard if the problems plaguing remote education were to be fixed.

"Our children are suffering at the hands of ongoing department incompetence," he said.

Ms Moss said the strategy's development had been led by some of the country's most eminent Aboriginal education experts and informed by community leaders, parents, schools, teachers and young people from right across the territory.

"Over 1000 people have directly engaged in the consultation process, the majority from remote areas," she said.

"We have received 51 written submissions, including from the Member for Mulka, with 72 consultation sessions held across 21 communities."

The strategy itself is a commitment to continuing the conversation with students, families and communities so every child is engaged in learning, she said.

The Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages last week raised concerns regarding Indigenous students who do not speak English as their first language.

It said the current one-size-fits-all Indigenous education policy was failing the eight out of 10 students in remote communities that speak one of the dozens of Aboriginal languages and dialects spoken in the NT.

According to ATESOL NT, just 14 per cent of very remote Indigenous students attended school four days a week in 2020, with numbers likely to have fallen further in 2021.

Less than four per cent of year nine remote Indigenous students met minimum writing standards in 2019.

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