Has Australia been successful at closing the Indigenous gap through education?

One of 'Closing The Gap' aims is to ensure 95 percent of all Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in education. Source: Pixabay

Ten years ago, Australia set out to reduce the inequality between the Indigenous people and the non-Indigenous.

By 2018, it was hoped that education could help close the gap – but has it worked?

The government’s “Closing the Gap” initiative, which was launched in 2008, aimed to ensure 95 percent of all Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in education; equalise school attendance rates; and halve the numeracy and literacy gap.

The year 2018 marks the expiry of these goals, but the government has had varying success in meeting them.

According to Closing the Gap’s report, the first goal on children’s enrollment rates is on track to be met, with 91 percent of Indigenous four-year-olds in education in 2016.

As for attendance, the rates for Indigenous students have been stable between 2015 and 2017 at 83 percent but lags behind the 93 percent rate for the non-Indigenous.

Finally, progress has been made in both numeracy and literacy rates. The gap between the groups has narrowed. However, the target is not on track to meet on the whole because of large regional differences.

Although there’s been some success in the government’s efforts, the question still needs to be asked: why haven’t all targets been met?

A new report by the Centre of Policy Development reveals that while Indigenous enrollment in schools has increased, the most disadvantaged students are concentrated in the poorest schools.

By looking at the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, which measures the socio-educational backgrounds of the student cohort, the report found enrollment rates were growing significantly faster in the poorest schools.

Despite setting progressive policies, the government has been criticized for not implementing the necessary actions to bring the goals into fruition.

According to The Conversation, the government stalled Closing the Gap progression due to competing projects, such as reducing the federal budget deficit. This saw cuts to the Indigenous affairs budget in 2014, which might have slowed the initiative.

Additionally, while ‘Closing the Gap’ focuses on statistics and set goals, this voices and opinions of the Indigenous people are purportedly being ignored, said The Conversation.

As seen above, the figures show progress has been made. But, when analyzed, it’s revealed that the majority of Indigenous children remain somewhat disadvantaged.

However, the government’s report acknowledges these shortcomings and notes progress has been made towards all its education aims.

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