Physical description

Aboriginal children in remote communities have the lowest rates of success in school. The reasons for the lack of success are well known, and mainly lie outside of the schools and their programs. Education authorities have made some poor choices in the past. They have not enforced the necessary discipline on children to attend school, and they have placed cultural sensitivity above the needs of the child to cope in the modern economy. More recently they have begun to concentrate on programs in literacy and numeracy, but success is limited because of the perverse incentives of other government initiatives. These initiatives have been blind to the need to deal with the absence of an economy in remote areas, and the absence of a work ethic among Aborigines who are welfare dependent. The absence of the work ethic and the absence of work have severely constrained the returns on the investment in Aboriginal education. The correct policy response to failure at school will be determined not simply by additional programs at school, but by how various issues of transition to the real economy - work, individual obligation, mobility - are managed. The transition will be better managed if educators and governments understand that education is essentially an instrument in economic integration, and that many remote communities are not viable, and where they are not schools should not be used as pawns to keep them afloat. Moreover, educators and governments should understand that western education cannot and should not preserve Aboriginal culture. Most importantly, parents' behaviour needs to change and where incentives to send children to school fail, compulsion must be used.