Knowledge, Justice, and Equity: Access to the Academic Curriculum Among Indigenous School Students in Australia

Knowledge, Justice, and Equity: Access to the Academic Curriculum Among Indigenous School Students in Australia

Jenny Dean (University of Canberra, Australia) and Philip Roberts (University of Canberra, Australia)
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7379-2.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter explores how systemic differences across schools in Australia contribute to equality or inequality in Indigenous students' learning opportunities, specifically access to the school curriculum needed to progress to university. Equitable access to the academic curriculum is particularly important for Indigenous students because they are impacted by a range of issues affecting school completion, achievement, and university participation. This research focuses on one aspect of the key transition from school to university, examining whether Indigenous students experience a greater range of challenges in gaining the prerequisite requirements for university study than other students of similar circumstances. In exploring these issues, the authors adopt a position of curricular and epistemic justice, arguing that “doing justice” with power-marginalized learners involves changing the basis for thinking about the nature of knowledge and how knowledge is valued.
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Introduction

Inequalities are referred to by Pakulski (2004) as “…steep but complex and fluid” (p. 3) that go beyond the uneven distribution of resources. Instead, they arise from:

...the way in which unequally distributed “social resources” and symbolic classifications combine in producing bounded hierarchical groupings. (Pakulski, 2004, p. 4)

Inequalities in schooling and higher education are persistent and intractable for Indigenous1 students in Australia. These inequalities exist in many areas but are particularly apparent in the distribution of the student population across school sectors (that is, government and non-government schools), location, and the social segregation that determines, in many cases, the kinds of schools that Indigenous students are able to attend (Perry & Southwell, 2014; Alegre & Ferrer, 2010). The purpose of this research is to examine how schooling circumstances, as well as socioeconomic factors, impact on students’ capacity to gain the prerequisite requirements to enter university upon school completion, and whether Indigenous students experience a greater range of challenges in doing so than other students of similar circumstances.

Using data on schools, students and courses in Australia’s largest state of New South Wales (NSW) (NSW Education Standards Authority [NESA], 2017),2 the research is a matched sample design in which students identifying as Indigenous in their final year of school are selected and matched to the same number of non-Indigenous students with similar individual and school characteristics. It is recognized that university entry is only one outcome of schooling but is albeit an important example of the stratified and hierarchical nature of the school curriculum in Australia.

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