Education

Ninti is committed to the seven Closing the Gap targets, especially those that address education:

  • close the gap in school attendance
  • halve the gap in reading and numeracy
  • have 95 percent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025
  • halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020

As part of this commitment, Ninti has implemented research and consultancies since 2003, including the following:

’Connected Beginnings’: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education

Connected Beginnings is $12 million p.a. program of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE)’s Community Child Care Fund. It aims to support Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children in areas of high need to be well prepared for school, by supporting Indigenous pregnant women, and Indigenous children from birth to school age. Over time it is anticipated the program will contribute to reducing the difference in school readiness and education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Ninti is contracted by DESE to provide advice on site selection; foundational support; and a ‘Community of Practice’ for 20 sites that integrate early childhood, maternal and child health, and family support services with schools across Australia until 2021.

‘Remote Education Systems’ research

Ninti managed this 6-year research program, which added to the body of knowledge about how remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can get the best benefit from the teaching and learning in and out of schools. The project found that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities believe that the purpose of education is to learn language, country and local knowledge, and for students to become Two-Ways strong. The idea of Two-Way broadly involves language knowledge, including literacy skills of home language and English, and cultural and social knowledge pertaining to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal domains. The importance of education is also to support a student’s identity that promotes community leadership and prepare young people for meaningful engagement in the world.
The project engaged directly with more than 1,250 education stakeholders from across Australia. More than 1,000 people contributed to the findings, most of whom were from remote communities. About one-third of our responses came from remote Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia. The research resulted in more than 70 peer-reviewed papers and articles and a final product, an e-book called Red Dirt Education, covering topics of an 11-part lecture series.

Vocational Education Training for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners

In collaboration with NCVER, Ninti produced a good practice guide that synthesised research data to identify how retention and completion can be improved (to improve employability) and what other indicators of success (apart from completion) are important outcomes of training in remote communities. The project contributed to furthering our understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences with VET in remote areas and explored the factors that boost engagement and retention in training and ensure that training meets the needs of these learners and their communities.

Pathways to Employment

This 6-year research used a case study approach to explore pathways between learning and livelihoods for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia. The project found that current pathway-to-employment initiatives fail to recognise the motivations and aspirations of local Aboriginal peoples; they see local strengths and assets as barriers to be overcome or, alternatively, fail to recognise them at all. It does not matter how well service providers collaborate or how well training is linked to jobs; local resident buy-in is paramount to improve employment outcomes in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Learning and work which appear to support economic engagement and employment retention include experiences that are voluntary and negotiated; that extend rather than discount or fight identity; that are legitimate activities from a local perspective; and that bring social benefit or are community/family-oriented. Research results were disseminated widely, with the project publishing a number of journal papers, presenting at conferences and creating other end-user publications.

Review of the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust

Under contract to the Central Land Council, Ninti reviewed the $20 million investment of funds into the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust and presented its review findings to the Trust Directors. The funds for the education program originated mainly from mining royalties on Walpiri land. The findings were very well received by the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust, as a basis for providing direction to future investments.

Teaching strategies for Indigenous learners

The State of Queensland’s Department of Education and Training engaged Ninti to research ‘What constitutes effective English language instruction within the delivery of the Australian Curriculum in mainstream classrooms of Indigenous learners who speak English as an additional language or dialect?’. The research findings are being used throughout Queensland schools to provide a reliable evidence base to inform recommendations on the use of specific teaching strategies that improve academic outcomes for Indigenous learners who speak English as a second language or dialect.