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  • A Share in the Future
    EPR701: Assignment 1: Document Analysis
    Fiona McRobie

    Introduction

    In 2014, the Northern Territory Government published their Indigenous Education Strategy (IES) in response to the independent review A Share in the Future – Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory (Wilson, 2014). The review called for a long-term coherent, strategic response to provide Indigenous children in the Northern Territory with the same educational opportunities as other Australian children. Here, I analyse the A Share in the Future: Indigenous Education Strategy 2015–2024 brochure (Northern Territory Government, 2014). This document was written for public distribution, to inform members of the education system and other stakeholders of the motivation behind the various programs to be implemented. The long-term strategic targets are primarily aimed at the Australian Curriculum general capabilities of Literacy and Numeracy (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013; Australian Government, 2013), measurable through the Australian Early Childhood Development Census and National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

    In this document, I analyse the stated visions and goals of the IES using the framework of Codd (1988). He analyses New Zealands’ The Curriculum Review through textual deconstruction and critiques the ideologies uncovered. He also argues that, given that the intention of the author is not explicitly presented and may therefore be impossible to define, analysis of a policy document should perhaps instead focus on the decisions it provokes in its readers. I describe the document in section \ref{section:IES}, identifying key aspects and themes. I consider the representation of learners, teachers, learning, and teaching through textual analysis of the document in section \ref{section:representations}. In section \ref{section:impacts}, however, I turn to the impact of the policy for a consideration of its connections with curriculum and pedagogy. Finally, the developments of my own understanding and beliefs regarding learning and teaching in response to the document are discussed in section \ref{section:mybeliefs}.

    The Indigenous Education Strategy

    \label{section:IES} The document begins with a message from the Minister of Education outlining the motivation for the strategy and its aims. Following this, the context is set: 70% of the Territory’s schools are in remote locations outside the greater Darwin region, and in these schools educational outcomes for Indigenous learners are declining despite decades of governmental strategies (Wilson, 2014). The IES is positioned as offering Indigenous students in remote locations with post-school career opportunities.

    The IES is comprised of five elements, drawn from the recommendations of Wilson (2014). The first three elements focus on goals for learners from early childhood through to school completion. These build on one another, demonstrating how success in secondary schooling is dependent on the skills and knowledge gained in primary years. The fourth focuses on community engagement, with a particular emphasis on the necessity for family and community support in order for regular school attendance. The final element considers the need for a strong educational workforce in order to achieve these goals for Indigenous learners.

    The IES provides five principles on which the strategy was formed. These principles are visible throughout the goals set, which aligns with Wilson (2014) who argued that coherence across the Territory’s policies and plans is essential in order to deal sensitively with the moral and cultural complexities inherent in Indigenous education issues. There is a strong emphasis on evidence-based methods that have been demonstrated to improve student performance, and seeking to balance community autonomy and centralised system-wide programs. Indeed, the elements Pathways and Engagement directly address principles 1 and 3 respectively.

    The document concludes with a graphic depicting the implementation timeline, however no specific actions are provided. These are set in the triennial review cycles, and published separately.

    1. Education provides social and economic advantages and all learners are respected.

    2. Student wellbeing and education outcomes will not be compromised.

    3. Community is engaged, has choice and culture is respected.

    4. Resource decisions are based on effective, evidence-based practices driving improved outcomes for Indigenous students.

    5. Autonomy is balanced with consistent and system-wide effort, accountability and alignment with Northern Territory Government policies addressing the needs of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.

    Representations of participants

    \label{section:representations} Codd (1988) observes that the New Zealand curriculum review of 1986 is constructed to be read in different ways by different readers, building an image of social harmony and engaged individual learners. In a similar way, the IES represents learners, teachers, and other members of the community in specific, intended manners. The opening message from the Minister for Education applauds teachers for their commitment, while painting a picture of remotely located Indigenous learners as disadvantaged due to their location. The document strengthens this representation, describing students as “

    The document represents teaching as a remedy to the disadvantage facing Indigenous students in remote Northern Territory locations. The first principle underpinning the IES states that education is able to offer social and economic advantages. This theme is continued through the document, where goals are introduced with the aim of equipping students for post-schooling employment or further education. Teachers themselves are presented as capable, with the ability to implement programs effectively and impact students’ futures. The final element of the policy speaks directly of teachers and educational workers, using strongly positive language: “