This purpose of this paper is to initiate discussion about remote education as a system. The school is an integral part of any education system, as are the political, economic, cultural and socioeconomic factors that generally occur outside of the school boundary.
In particular, this paper discusses initiatives and programs that have shown positive outcomes in Indigenous education. Some initiatives are occurring internationally, some are national and others are localised to a single school.
The Norwegian, New Zealand and Canadian Governments have recognised the role schools played in the implementation of their past assimilation policies. They also recognise the significant role schools have to play in re-dressing the disadvantage created as a legacy of these policies. The political basis for school reform has come about on the basis of a constitution (Norway), treaty (New Zealand) and legislation (Canada).
Politically, different countries have very different views about the value of bilingual or plurilingual education programs and the language competence for Indigenous students. International experience suggests that multilingual Indigenous students frequently perform better than mono-lingual Indigenous students, making bilingual education a superior alternative for Indigenous students. Today, there are schools in Norway, New Zealand and Wales where the curriculum is taught, in varying degrees, in the language of its Indigenous peoples.
In New Zealand, the United States, Norway and Australia, students in schools that are specifically focusing on Indigenous education are achieving academic success. However, in all countries (with the probable exception of Norway) the vast majority of Indigenous students are attending mainstream schools that are not oriented toward promoting Indigenous culture, history and involvement. Very rarely do the published data distinguish between schools that are focusing on Indigenous education and those that do not. The result is that the aggregated data do not highlight where the successes are.
Economic modelling in Canada and Australia indicates that the cost of Indigenous people not succeeding academically is more than the extra costs involved in ensuring an education that results in Indigenous people achieving similar educational outcomes as non-Indigenous people. Using Social Rates of Returns there is a very strong financial case for justifying the upfront investments in education.
The Australian and international literature suggests that models of shared governance between the school (principal, teachers, students), the community (parents, Elders, wider community) and others (education department personnel and researchers) result in improved outcomes for Indigenous students.