A former principal of Aurukun’s school in far north Queensland has defended Noel Pearson’s controversial teaching model, saying there has been a dramatic improvement since its introduction.
The so-called “direct instruction method”, which was first developed in the United States, has faced a barrage of criticism in recent days.
It has been blamed for teenagers disengaging from secondary boarding schools after some allegedly attacked the Aurukun principal and teachers’ homes.
The Queensland Government is now reviewing the Aurukun Primary School’s curriculum and financial arrangements.
The school’s first executive principal, Don Anderson, said when he began only a handful of students were above very basic infant levels in literacy and numeracy.
“Now, every child who attends can function effectively as they move into secondary education,” he said.
The direct instruction model was introduced to Aurukun when Mr Pearson’s Cape York Academy became involved in 2010 and focuses on the needs of children with learning difficulties.
Chris Sarra, an Indigenous educator from the Stronger Smarter Institute, said earlier this week Mr Pearson’s teaching model, which was being run in three Aboriginal communities in the Cape York region, was partly to blame for the problems in Aurukun.
“What needs to be questioned the most are these crazy and clumsy and very expensive, ideological, social engineering projects,” Mr Sarra said.
He said the school had gone backwards, despite the “tens of millions of dollars poured into it”.
But Mr Anderson, who was also the Aurukun school principal in the late 1980s, said he disputed the criticism of Mr Pearson’s teaching model.
“When I was principal of Aurukun, I actually led a walk out of Aurukun, because there was truck stealing, there was semi-automatic rifles,” he said.
“Subsequent to that, I found out that attendance had always been poor, the educational outcomes were getting worse, but had never been great.”
Slack policing of the community at fault: Pearson
Ten years ago, average attendance was about 40 per cent.
Under the academy it rose to 75 per cent and recently has been at about 50 per cent.
Mr Pearson said he blamed slack policing of a community riven by alcoholism, sexual abuse and other violence.
Mr Anderson said professional analysis showed that Naplan results displayed a “dramatic improvement”.
“We are committed to getting the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy right,” he said.
While average Naplan scores are still low, they have improved from years three to five.
The Aurukun school has been closed since night time attacks on the principal, teachers houses and security guards by wayward teenagers.
Aurukun school students have been offered distance education.