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Link between indigenous school attendance completion and social determinant of health

Discuss about the Contemporary Health Issues and Policies.

As per the new report of Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACCR), the school attendance of indigenous children is getting worse despite extensive investment in ‘Closing the Gap’ programs (ABC News 2017). Closing the Gap campaign is a government strategy to reduce all forms of disadvantages present in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and promoting educational achievement in indigenous people was one of the goals of the campaign. However, latest reports suggest that half of indigenous students do not complete their schooling and they are absent at least 10% of the school year (ABC News 2017). The school attendance rate for indigenous student in 2014 was 83.5% and in 2017, it was 83.2%. This suggest that attendance rate has remained stable, however the data is low compared to school attendance for non-indigenous student, which was 93% in 2017 (Closingthegap.pmc.gov.au. 2018). This indicates that the target of Close the Gap program to reduce the gap for school attendance in indigenous children has not been achieved. In relation to this issue, the Western Australian State government is having an inquiry into Indigenous school attendance completion. To provide an evidence-based parliamentary session, this paper explores the issue in-depth by linking it to relevant social determinant of health factors. The paper also has the scope to provide idea about how recent policies have addressing social determinant factors affecting indigenous school attendance and recommend changes or improvement needed in existing policies.

Social determinant of health is the factor or condition under which person lives, work and ages and these conditions have an impact on health of an individual. For example, the employment condition, education, housing, urbanization and financial factors determine health and well-being of an individual or population (World Health Organization 2018). Hence, in response to the issue of poor school attendance in indigenous children, it can be said that several social determinant factors like urbanization issues, poverty issues and employment factor has resulted in poor school completion rate in indigenous people. The link between each of these factors and their contribution to the issue of poor Indigenous school attendance/completion rate is understood by further discussion in the next section.

Urbanization issues and housing are two social determinants of health that determines well-being of people and their ability to access education to promote health (Patil 2014). By comparing the data related to school attendance in indigenous and non-indigenous children, it has been found that lower school attendance was higher for children living in more remote areas compared to those living in metropolitan areas. In addition, the attendance rate of non-indigenous group is higher because remoteness is not an issue for them (Closingthegap.pmc.gov.au. 2018). Hence, differences in living and housing condition of non-indigenous and indigenous people have been seen due to urbanization and employment issues. Urbanization is a process that leads to growth of cities and economic development and affects health of an individual. People living in city finds easy access to health, however those living in slums and remotes areas are socially excluded. They lack accessibility to resources necessary for health and well-being (Patil 2014). Hence, urbanization as a social determinant of health and the reason behind decline in school attendance from metropolitan areas to remotes areas are understood from the discussion.

Policies Related to the education of Indigenous people


To improve school attendance of indigenous children, housing issue needs to be targeted first as this can only improve educational outcomes for children. Cunningham and MacDonald, (2012) explained that housing is strongly related to school outcome. Children who live in remote areas or overcrowded areas lack the necessary resource to do well in their studies. In addition, parents experiencing housing issues priorities other activities instead of sending children to school. The discussion clear states that housing problems affect school attendance and make children vulnerable to lower academic achievement. Children living in underdeveloped or remote areas are also likely to suffer from health consequence due to exposure to insects, infection and pollution. Hence, addressing housing issue is important not only to improve school attendance in indigenous people but also to improve their outcome.

Employment is also a social determinant factor that has links to the issue of low indigenous school attendance rate. Employment is a factor that shapes social position of a person and type of jobs and conditions of underemployment determines and health and well-being of an individual. People suffering from employment issues are more likely to suffer from mental and physical health issues (Benach et al. 2014). The review of local environment of indigenous people suggests that they suffer from poverty, unemployment and poor community facilities. Hence, such employment issues results in poor parent’s attitude towards education and it significantly has an impact on rate of school attendance of children. Employment is linked to educational outcome in a person and this is understood from the fact that when indigenous and non-indigenous Australians have low level of education, there no employment gap. However, when low educational attainment is found in any group, it results in poor health outcome, reduced employment opportunities and lower income too (Pmc.gov.au. 2018).

 Current policies and Australian government’s efforts to improve employment opportunities for indigenous people can increase the likelihood of complete school attendance rate in their children. There is a need to analyze teaching methods, method of engagement with parents and early interventions by the Australian government too to understand the cause behind disparities in school attendance between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Understanding teaching methods and method of engagement in school is also important because many parents relate poor attendance to school related factors such as school environment and attitude of teachers towards children (Krakouer 2016). Hence, as current policy initiatives like Close the Gap are not on the track to achieve the goal of educational attainment in Indigenous student, there is a need to analyze current policy initiatives for the group to recommend future course of action to improve attendance in schools for indigenous student.

Educational policies of the indigenous people

According to the statistical report, the indigenous group of people is the most unfortunate and disadvantaged group in the continent. The figures related to the level of income, health, the ultimate expectancy of life, income level affects largely upon the capability of the indigenous population to effectively participate in the educational system (Pmc.gov.au 2015).Reports from UNESCO broadly highlights numerous policies and programs in the platform of social sciences, communication, information and education for providing positive impacts and effective opportunities for the indigenous children (Humanrights.gov.au 2018).

The UNESCO policy of leave no one behind at the 2030 commitment targets to ensure that all the rights and requirements of the indigenous group of people are noticed and resolved (Un.org 2016).Furthermore, the UN declaration on the rights of the indigenous group of people by the guidelines of UN General Assembly and the UN Development Group states the importance of engaging and guiding the indigenous people in various sectors of development within their community (Unesco.org 2017).

Governmental policies aim to improve the educational outcomes and livelihood of the indigenous students so that they get successful in every aspect of their life and in the field of education and career. The policies provide guidance for the management and development of the indigenous education by fixing out certain principles, protocols, and objectives. The policy further aims to align the educational activities at the college and school level with the national educational policy for the indigenous group of people. The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group is one of the major advisory bodies for the evolution of the educational field of the indigenous students (Unesco.org 2017). The government of Australia is committed for achieving higher results for the indigenous people and the governmental agencies are working with the targeted states and the community for ensuring the policy programs at the mainstream schools and colleges contribute for the improvement in the educational background and outcomes for all the community students. Furthermore the policies by the state government targets to affirm the basic rights of the indigenous students for their fair, significant and equitable opportunities in education for a quality education.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework by the government of Australia is constructed in support of the indigenous education and in the identification of the requirement for the development and maintenance of the flexible and innovative practice to improve and support educational policy.


Some of the notable policies of the government are ACT Department of Education and Training, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategic Plan 2006–09, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Matters: Strategic Plan 2010—2013, Ministerial Council for Education Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan 2010-2014 and more (Aihw.gov.au. 2016). These policies mainly highlight the importance of the students to participate in the concept of learning and earning until they attain a senior secondary certificate and turn 17.The six closing gaps regarding the SDOHs of the indigenous group includes:

  1. The end of the life expectancy gap and the impact of the life expectancy on the education of the indigenous students.
  2. The gap in the mortality rates for the indigenous children less than five years.
  3. Investigating and ensuring that all the indigenous children f the remote communities have access to childhood education.
  1. Closing the gap in reading, writing, and numeracy among the all the students.
  2. Halving the employment gap and gap in wage rates among the indigenous community people. The impact of less pay and lower income rates on the level of education and rate of school going among the children in the community (Aihw.gov.au. 2016).
  3. The gap for the students of the indigenous community from receiving equal treatment and good quality education in the institutions and schools in Australia.

In respect to the above six gaps stated above, the government of the state and the territorial government are committed to reduce and abolish the gaps of marginalization and discrimination that impacts the educational status and health of the community people.

The figure below illustrates the rate of indigenous children attaining the school level education and the effect of the health status on the attainment of primary education among the indigenous community group.

Figure 1    

Source: (Humanrights.gov.au 2018)

As the government tries to maintain control, the lack of progression in the field of education among the indigenous community students highlights a new form of colonization (Marmot et al. 2012). Thus some of the recommended outcomes for the effective development of the health and the educational status of the indigenous population include the achievement of parity for the indigenous students, introduction for the need-based recurring funding. The need for a strategic framework and new governmental policies for the introduction of stipend facilities for the indigenous students are some of the major recommended measures (Fisher et al. 2016). Furthermore, practices and opportunities for school level and institutional changes and the commonwealth programs of the government needs to be revised to promote effective quality of education among the indigenous students of Australia (Jacob, Liu and Lee 2015). Some of the essential steps the government can take include the introduction of scholarship and free aid programs for the low-income families in the indigenous community and improvement of the attitudes of the non-indigenous people towards the indigenous group. Introduction of indigenous tutorial assistance scheme and vocational training facilities for the students of the indigenous group needs to be revised. The principles of justice and equity needs to restored and policies should be formed focusing on the achievement and support of the educational and health outcomes of the indigenous students.

Conclusion

Education is considered to be the basic human right and imposition of inappropriate policies has resulted in a further loss of indigenous people. The United Nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous People states that it is the basic right of the indigenous people to participate actively in the health and education programs. Though various international efforts have been implemented for the indigenous children in the realization of the rights to the indigenous education, much improvement is needed to abolish the barriers the community people face in accessing quality education.

References:

ABC News.  2017.  Indigenous and rural school attendance getting worse, new report shows.  Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-06/indigenous-school-attendance-going-backwards/9230346

Aihw.gov.au. 2016. Australia’s health 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/d115fe0f-9452-4475-b31e-bf6e7d099693/ah16-4-2-social-determinants-indigenous-health.pdf.aspx [Accessed 24 Apr. 2018].

Benach, J., Vives, A., Amable, M., Vanroelen, C., Tarafa, G. and Muntaner, C., 2014. Precarious employment: understanding an emerging social determinant of health. Annual review of public health, 35.

Closingthegap.pmc.gov.au. 2018.  Education | Closing the Gap. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://closingthegap.pmc.gov.au/education

Cunningham, M. and MacDonald, G., 2012. Housing as a platform for improving education outcomes among low-income children. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Fisher, M., Baum, F.E., MacDougall, C., Newman, L., McDermott, D. and Phillips, C., 2016. Intersectoral action on SDH and equity in Australian health policy. Health promotion international, 32(6), pp.953-963.

Humanrights.gov.au. 2018. Social determinants and the health of Indigenous peoples in Australia – a human rights based approach | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online] Available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/social-determinants-and-health-indigenous-peoples-australia-human-rights-based [Accessed 24 Apr. 2018].

Jacob, W.J., Liu, J. and Lee, C.W., 2015. Policy debates and indigenous education: The trialectic of language, culture, and identity. In Indigenous Education (pp. 39-61). Springer, Dordrecht.

Krakouer, J., 2016. Aboriginal Early Childhood Education: Why attendance and true engagement are equally important, retrieved from: https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=indigenous_education

Marmot, M., Allen, J., Bell, R., Bloomer, E. and Goldblatt, P., 2012. WHO European review of social determinants of health and the health divide. The Lancet, 380(9846), pp.1011-1029.

Patil, R.R., 2014. Urbanization as a determinant of health: a socioepidemiological perspective. Social work in public health, 29(4), pp.335-341.

Pmc.gov.au. 2015. Policies and strategies | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2014 Report. [online] Available at: https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/Health-Performance-Framework-2014/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-health-performance-framework-2014-report/policies-and.html [Accessed 24 Apr. 2018].

Pmc.gov.au. 2018.  Education | Closing the Gap - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/reports/closing-the-gap-2016/chapter-02/index.html

Un.org. 2016. State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. [online] Available at: https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/2016/Docs-updates/SOWIP_Health.pdf [Accessed 24 Apr. 2018].

Unesco.org. 2017. UNESCO Policy on Indigenous Peoples | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. [online] Available at: https://www.unesco.org/new/en/indigenous-peoples/related-info/unesco-policy-on-indigenous-peoples/ [Accessed 24 Apr. 2018].

World Health Organization.  2018.  About social determinants of health. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.who.int/social_determinants/sdh_definition/en/

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