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August 28, 2013
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September 23, 2013

Radical Hope: Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy Evaluation

by Margaret Nixon, Manager of Research and Training, CASSE

A year ago I read with interest the book ‘Radical Hope: Education and Equality in Australian Education’ by Noel Pearson (2011).  In this book he outlines his model of education for indigenous students in primary school.

He argues that education is the key to social transformation and draws on the notion of ‘no excuses’ when it comes to education.  He believes that the socio-economic background and personal circumstances of the disadvantaged student cannot be put forward as a reason for under achievement (p. 27).

At the conclusion of the book there are a number of writers who have responded to Pearson’s model.  Some write in defence of the model, while others identify its shortcomings.

Pearson’s model of education is known as the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy (CYAAA) Initiative and is part of the Cape York Welfare Reform (CYWR).

The Australian Council of Education Research (ACER) conducted an evaluation of the CYAAA Initiative within the three schools where it was being piloted and produced the following report: http://deta.qld.gov.au/indigenous/pdfs/cyaaa-evaluation-report.pdf. This evaluation was designed to identify the impact of the initiative on student learning and outcomes.

The evaluation concluded that due to gaps in the data…

…it became difficult to empirically ascribe a causal connection between the Initiative and student learning outcomes.  That said, it needs to be acknowledged that schools and community members provided a wide range of anecdotal evidence that suggests there is such a connection and that the Initiative is indeed having a positive impact on student outcomes.  (p. 9)

It is interesting to read ‘Radical Hope’ in conjunction with the ACER report.  It is also interesting to position both of these within the observations made by Pamela Nathan (Director of CASSE’s Aboriginal Program) on the Cape York Welfare Reform initiative: http://casseteam.org/2013/06/18/exhibition-a-testament-to-hope/ .

I would encourage educators and those working with socially disadvantaged communities to read the book and the report with the view of identifying aspects of the initiative that resonate with their own experience and inform the direction of their own practise.

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