Australian Indigenous Children: Numeracy and Other Issues
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Numeracy standards of Australian Indigenous school children have been of concern for some time. Recently, the Make It Count project has attempted to address the problem with a focus on urban Indigenous children. This paper describes the experiences of one Western Australian school where notable success has been achieved. It also describes research conducted as part of the project. Initial needs analyses revealed low numeracy levels and it was quickly acknowledged that it would be difficult to address numeracy standards unless underlying issues were dealt with. The most critical issues related to student attendance rates, student engagement, professional knowledge of teachers and paraprofessionals, parent engagement and the meaningful contextualisation of mathematics. Strategies were put in place to deal with these issues and encouraging results were attained. Attendance rates of Indigenous children have improved considerably and this is largely attributed to the 'culturally aware' and empathetic approach of school administration and teachers. Professional knowledge of education assistants has increased as has parent engagement whilst the number of Indigenous children at the school has increased three fold in five years. Children have engaged enthusiastically with a role model program and with the contextualisation of mathematics. Most significantly, the great majority of Indigenous children at the school have at least maintained 'at benchmark' levels for numeracy on the national testing program or have improved to being 'above benchmark'.
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