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Mind the gap: understanding the Indigenous education gap and how to close it

Closing the Gap School attendance Educational achievement Education equity First Peoples education Australia

Indigenous educational disadvantage remains among the most pressing and persistent public policy challenges in Australia. Despite bipartisan and intergovernmental commitment to ‘Closing the Gap’, has done little to move the needle in education outcomes.

Dispiritingly poor education outcomes persist despite the best of intentions, considerable investment of resources, and countless programmes and initiatives of policymakers.

This research examines sources and extent of Indigenous educational disadvantage and proposes how policymakers can better meet the ambition of closing the gap.

While Indigenous students make similar progress at school to their non-Indigenous peers, they are more likely to start behind them — especially, but not exclusively, in remote schools. While there are some isolated examples of significant catch up of students in remote majority Indigenous schools, to date this has not been systematically replicated on a larger scale. Around half of the difference in Indigenous student achievement results from lower levels of parents’ school and post-school educational attainment.

Differences in most school-level factors — such as schools’ remoteness, size, sector, funding, and staffing ratios — aren’t directly to blame for student achievement gaps. The single most important measured factor explaining the student achievement gap is difference in school attendance rates.

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CIS Research Report 41