Queensland schools are preparing young people for jail, a prominent Indigenous leader says.
Noel Pearson slammed the state schooling system in Queensland on Thursday, claiming it did not teach children to read and led to high rates of incarceration.
Mr Pearson said it was difficult to urge parents to send their children to schools when the school was “not teaching them”.
“Too many of our schools here in Queensland are preparatory institutions for incarcerations,” he told the Queensland Media Club.
“They prepare kids for juvenile detention and later adult imprisonment.
“That’s the pathway – if you have school failure, if you have reading failure, you have juvenile detention and then you have imprisonment.
Mr Pearson said Indigenous Australians were the most imprisoned people in the world per capita, which was deemed correct according to a fact check by The Conversation.
“The engine for the production of these detainees in juvenile detention and prison, the engine, ultimately is failed schooling,” he said.
“The direct correlation between kids who can’t read and the kids who are in jail.”
Mr Pearson said the Queensland education system had a “long, long, long way” to go.
“These remote Indigenous schools are the poorest in the country,” he said.
“I see no sign that there’s any kind of serious strategy to turn that situation around.”
Indigenous people make up 4 per cent of the total population in Queensland, according to the latest Census data.
But they make up two-thirds of the children locked up, according to an Amnesty International Report, and 32 per cent of the population in adult jails, according to the ABS.
It comes after Mr Pearson’s Good to Great Schools pulled out of running Aurukun State School in November 2016, leaving it to the Education Department.
Aurukun State School was closed briefly in 2016 after staff were threatened, with allegations the principal was attacked by a group of teenagers, and teachers evacuated.
In February, an audit office report found Education Department staff overstated how many students were enrolled at the Aurukun school due to incorrect interpretation of policies and poor record-keeping.
Asked at the Queensland Media Club whether he wanted to re-engage with the Aurukun school, Mr Pearson said he did.
“It’s the great heartbreak of my life losing that school,” he said.
“I’m not in public life to lose things like that – those children are my most precious anxiety.
“I don’t believe (Education Minister) Kate Jones and (Education Department director-general) Jim Watterston have done the right thing by those children.
“So yes, I harbour that hope and dream. Not for my sake, but for theirs.”
Mr Pearson said he did not believe the outcome for the school was fair.
“Essentially that school got shut down for a law-and-order problem down the street,” he said.
But Mr Pearson did not answer a question on whether he would write to Education Minister Kate Jones asking to teach his program at Aurukun again.
“They know our position on that,” he said.
“I think that this whole question of fixing up the schools in remote areas is still a big agenda for us.”
An agreement is in place between Good to Great Schools for Coen and Hope schools.
Ms Jones said positive change was being seen in the Aurukun community, starting at the school.
She said the government had introduced Years 7 to 12 at the school.
“While students still have the option of undertaking secondary education at boarding schools, those who are not ready to leave their community can now continue at Aurukun State School with a flexible learning program,” she said.
“This is what the community asked for.
“This approach has proved successful with 47 students now enrolled and engaged in secondary studies at the school.”
Ms Jones said the school focused on individual case management, working closely with families to support students into study, training or work.
?Mr Watterston said the Department only resumed full control of Aurukun school after Mr Pearson advised Good to Great Schools would cease further support to the school from 2017.
He said the school had a thriving new P&C committee and a first-language curriculum in the Wik language was developed and implemented within the community.
“While direct instruction remains in reading and spelling, there is now a strong alignment to students learning under the Australian curriculum,” Mr Watterston said.