Cape York launches 'education revolution'

Cape York launches ‘education revolution’

Just 12 months ago half of all Aurukun state school students, from grade 1-10, were reading at kindergarten or pre-kindergarten level.

Now, for the first time, there are kids in the Cape York community learning at the same level as kids their own age across the country.

Since the creation of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy, at the start of 2010, a revolution has taken place in the run-down old classrooms of Aurukun.

The academy, which covered Aurukun and Coen state schools, is founded around the Direct Instruction teaching method devised in the United States some 40 years ago.

Unlike the mainstream system, in which students progress according to age, kids in the two schools don’t progress until they have mastered each level.

Lectures are tightly structured to maintain discipline and keep students on track and pupils are tested roughly every week to determine their progress.

As a result five of the 240 odd students are now reading at their age level and one is reading above their level and three have achieved their grade level in numeracy.

Attendance is also up, from below 40 per cent to around 65 per cent of students.

It might not sound like much, but for those on the ground it is a dramatic turnaround.

The driving force behind the academy, indigenous leader Noel Pearson, said the school was a vastly different place to a year ago.

“Until this year I can honestly say the system was providing a disservice to the children of Aurukun; the kids weren’t getting the education they deserved,” he told AAP.

“In 10 months there has been an absolute education revolution on this campus.”

“We started from such a low base, it’ll take us a while to close the gap but for the younger kids, some of them are racing to the front.”

Mr Pearson said the structured curriculum, which included large cultural and extracurricular components, had changed student behaviour.

In 2009, he said, police were called to the school more than 100 times to deal with disputes or behavioural issues, compared to only a handful of times this year.

Mr Pearson said he would like to see the program expanded to other areas, including his home town of Hope Vale which is possibly joining the academy next year.

However, he said he would leave it to other communities and schools to make up their own minds.

“I’m actually just sitting back and saying to parents and community leaders `don’t take my word for it, go to Coen, go to Aurukun and see for yourself.”

READ: Brisbane Times


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