Policy fuzz and fuzzy logic: Researching contemporary Indigenous education and parent-school engagement in north Australia

Tess Lea, Helen Thompson, Eva McRae-Williams, Agathe Wegner

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    'Engagement' is the second of six top priorities in Australia's most recent Indigenous education strategy to 'close the gap' in schooling outcomes. Drawing on findings from a three-year ethnographic analysis of school engagement issues in the north of Australia, this article situates engagement within the history of Indigenous education policy, followed by considerations of how many of the issues faced by Indigenous families both match and can be distinguished from those experienced among poor and underemployed social groups throughout the western world. We find that Indigenous people are content with the schools' engagement efforts and with their interactions with schools, accepting that how their lives are lived are not within the provenance of the school system to amend. In its homogenisation of Indigenous issues, reification of cultural distinction and foregrounding of disengagement as an issue, Australian education policy is also about non-engagement, in that it excludes key issues from policy consideration while appearing to be inclusive. The education sector does not systematically engage with the grinding issues that Indigenous families face in their everyday worlds; and since Indigenous people do not really expect schools to know how to solve their issues, the call for engagement and its resolution is perfectly irresolvable. 
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-339
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Education Policy
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011


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