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Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students

image of Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students

Indigenous peoples are diverse, within and across nations. However, Indigenous peoples have experienced colonisation processes that have undermined Indigenous young people’s access to their identity, language and culture. At the same time, Indigenous children have not generally had access to the same quality of education that other children in their country have had access to. These two forces in combination have undermined the educational opportunities and outcomes of successive generations of Indigenous children and young people, at times with catastrophic effect.

The six Canadian provinces and territories that participated in this study, along with New Zealand and Queensland (Australia), are actively seeking to better meet the educational needs and aspirations of Indigenous students and their families.

The report seeks to identify promising strategies, policies, programmes and practices that support improved learning outcomes for Indigenous students and to build an empirical evidence base on Indigenous students in education. The study investigates four areas in Indigenous education: well-being, participation, engagement and achievement in education. These outcomes are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing, and each is essential for the success of every student.

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Improving the well-being of Indigenous young people

Well-being is central to approaches to Indigenous education and Indigenous values. Five dimensions usefully define well-being in young people: cognitive, psychological, physical, social and material. This chapter focuses especially on the social, psychological and physical dimensions. A number of indicators give rise to concern about the wellbeing of Indigenous young people, although data are inadequate to build a full picture. But there are also promising signs that trends are improving and that the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students are relatively small. There is concern about low levels of trust and confidence in the education system among Indigenous parents. Recognition of culture, language and identity is an integral part of well-being, but it is difficult to recruit adequate staff and trained Indigenous teachers. However, the promotion of Indigenous culture and identity has implications for the professional development and practice of all educators. Building trust is even more essential because of the historical context of residential schools and colonialism, as well as the privileged place of relationships in Indigenous cultures. Land-based programmes represent examples of project-based learning, community engagement, and a sustainability focus that are lessons for good practice everywhere, not only for Indigenous students.

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