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Indigenous education, Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal students, Early childhood education, Attendance, Student engagement


The Australian government has increasingly recognised the importance of quality early childhood education (ECE) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as noted in a variety of policy documents such as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Closing the Gap targets of the Rudd government in 2008, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010-2014, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy 2015 (Tye, 2014; Dreise & Thomson, 2014; Education Council, 2015). However, the focus in Aboriginal ECE is still on improving access to, and attendance at ECE centres in Australia rather than highlighting the reasons for reduced Indigenous engagement in ECE. This paper goes beyond the rhetoric of framing Aboriginal ECE from a 'deficit' perspective to focusing on why the mainstream school system needs adapt to and accommodate Aboriginal learners. It is argued that a shift in policy thought is necessary in order to improve Aboriginal ECE in Australia, from one that attempts to 'prepare' Aboriginal children for school to one that prepares schools and educators for Aboriginal children. Only in acknowledging the cultural mismatch between home and school environments for Aboriginal children will successful ECE outcomes be achieved.

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Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)


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