Pearson embraces ‘patriotic’ Indigenous education plan

Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has described a new plan to attract top teachers and graduates to Indigenous communities as a “call to patriotic duty”.

The proposal, called Teach for Australia, includes offering $50,000 tax-free bonuses for experienced teachers to teach in remote areas.

Mr Pearson says it is modelled on a similar program in the United States.

“We want to target these teachers who mainly live in urban and capital cities, who work for private schools [and] who work for great public schools,” he said.

“They’re teachers that we want to enjoin to the cause of fixing up Indigenous education.”

The discussion paper suggesting the plan was released by the Cape York Institute and the Macquarie University.

Mr Pearson is hopeful the proposal will be supported by the Federal Government.

A sum of $20,000 would also be offered to top university graduates to become educators.

Mr Pearson has told ABC Radio’s PM program it would cost about $67 million over four years.

“I hope that I’ll be able to have discussions with the new Education Minister [Julia Gillard] and the Federal Government in the near future about this concept,” he said.

“I believe the policy we’ve outlined here and the concept is one that can really produce a practical revolution in Indigenous education.”

More support

But the head of the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute says Indigenous educational success will not be achieved by simply luring teachers with cash incentives.

The institute’s director and former Cherbourg school principal in Queensland, Chris Sarra, says developing the right mindset and providing support for teachers already working in Indigenous communities would yield better results.

“Noel’s on the money when he articulates the need for quality teaching as a means to delivering improved education outcomes in Indigenous communities,” he said.

“But there are questions about the capacity of financial incentives as a means to attract good teachers.

“To some extent financial incentives packages and processes exist already [but] they’re yet to signal any worthwhile education outcomes.”

Mr Sarra says staff already working in remote communities need more support.

“I worry that singling out teachers to offer this financial reward could be seen as a bit of a kick in the guts for those Aboriginal teachers or Aboriginal teacher aides who work their guts out in remote communities [and] are yet missing out on any of these kinds of financial rewards as well,” he said.



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