It’s not pretty, but the latest iteration of the MySchool website, published by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority) has revealed (once again) the growing disparity in school attendance rates across the country and across major cities. At least some of these disproportionate statistics must be associated with cultural competence levels within our schools.
As The Australian reported, education experts generally believe that 90 per cent attendance is the minimum benchmark for a student to progress in their learning. Of course, quality of that learning extends way beyond merely getting to school. But, The Australian also recounted that up to half of the students enrolled in some schools in Tarneit, Flemington, Dandenong and Sunshine fall well below that 90 per cent figure. These schools and suburbs have a large population of African migrants.
Similarly, the attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across the country fall well below that 90 per cent attendance rate. In some areas, only 45 per cent make it through to Year 12 from Year 7, compared with 77 per cent of non-indigenous students.
It’s hard not to see the correlation between a lack of cultural understanding and these stats.
The issues are similar – attendance and the retention in education. As a result, there are ever growing divisions in educational outcomes and social inequities. When cultural inequality begins as early as in a child’s secondary education, you can bet that those cultural inequities will continue on later in that child’s life.
The cultural competence of schools, their staff and their communities is so very important. ACARA is currently recruiting, with the support of Slade Education, a Director, Curriculum to guide the next iteration of the Australian Curriculum which must of course be one element towards inclusion of all students in the advance of learning outcomes across Australia. A lack of cultural understanding, shown by any one staff member, can stifle badly the learning of children and adolescents.
Do you look for multicultural experience and training in the recruitment of your staff and/or create opportunities for cultural learning to better engage students in your school?
Featured image: Engagement officer Wally Elnour with students Junior, Alady, Anei and Siena at Sacred Heart primary school, Fitzroy VIC. Picture: Aaron Francis. The Australian, 6 March 2018