Educating for inequality: Indigenous schooling in Northern Australia

Tess Lea

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter considers the official and unofficial pedagogical mechanisms for shaping and creating different types of people within schools. In particular, it links the ready predisposition to diagnose Indigenous children in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia as unhealthy and ‘learning disabled’ to a simultaneous compounding of unequal education outcomes and the internalisation of racialised, embodied habits. Operating at different social scales, the cultural pedagogies in question combine in practice to shift the onus of future educational failings onto Indigenous students and away from the state, validating the ethical purpose of reforms while reinscribing racial inequalities.1 The argument draws on findings from an ethnographic study of four NT schools, all catering for large numbers of young primary school children from low socio-economic, Indigenous or non-English speaking backgrounds, conducted as part of another project altogether. Here I observed teachers with children as young as four and five adopting instructional approaches that presumed and reinforced the notion that Indigenous children cannot concentrate, are incapable of dealing with overly complex concepts and are highly unlikely to advance academically. Such assumptions were authorised by other pedagogical forces, from external surveys identifying students as this or that type of disadvantaged learner; funding regimes rewarding particular learning ‘disabilities’ over others; wider cultural discourses about Indigenous learning constraints; to such informal, micro-tactics as the isolation of a teacher who imprudently questions these material-discursive entailments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCultural Pedagogies and Human Conduct
    EditorsMegan Watkins, Greg Noble, Catherine Driscoll
    Place of PublicationUK
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Print)9781315794730
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    Dive into the research topics of 'Educating for inequality: Indigenous schooling in Northern Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this