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NT education failing Indigenous students, say -

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LISA MILLAR: A report into education levels in the Northern Territory claims that 10,000 Indigenous
children have finished school unable to read, write, do simple maths or even speak English.

The Centre for Independent Studies, an economic think tank, says the majority of Aboriginal
students can barely pass even year one tests for literacy and numeracy.

The report's author, Helen Hughes, says rather than blaming the parents, the Territory Government
is failing these children with inadequate or underqualified teachers and ineffective curriculums.

Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: Professor Helen Hughes of the Centre for Independent Studies recently hosted two
Aboriginal girls from Arnhem Land at her home in Sydney to assess their education.

The girls were 15 and 16 and had gone to school but they could barely read or write, or do the
simplest arithmetic.

HELEN HUGHES: They could not read the signs on the shops. They couldn't read "Top Fruit". I mean,
you know, I said, "Try and read that". They couldn't. I said, "If you can read all the signs around
here, I'll take you to the chocolate shop," because they couldn't read "Chocolate Shop".

ANNE BARKER: Helen Hughes says these two teenagers are symptomatic of an appalling level of
education and teaching in remote Indigenous schools in the Northern Territory.

She says Education Department figures confirm many kids are finishing their schooling without the
equivalent of even Year One literacy or numeracy. Meaning, they barely have the education of five
year olds and are condemned to a life of welfare dependence, unqualified to take any meaningful
jobs.

And the official data, she says, hides the true extent of the problem.

HELEN HUGHES: The official data from the Department of Education for remote children showed that 20
per cent were passing the benchmark test, which all Australian children do, right? 20 per cent. But
the Department of Education stopped publishing them because they showed such bad results and
because it's known that children who aren't going to pass are not given the test to sit. So, this
20 per cent was a wild exaggeration of the pass rate.

ANNE BARKER: How little schooling are some of these kids getting?

HELEN HUGHES: From what I can gather of the fly-in, fly-out teacher business, a lot of the schools
are not open more than, they're not really getting teaching more that two hours a day, and they're
not getting teaching five days a week by a long shot. I mean, there's a lot of documentation of
that.

ANNE BARKER: Professor Hughes blames the Northern Territory Education Department for simply not
doing its job.

She says Indigenous schools are prohibited from advertising for their own teachers, yet
non-Indigenous schools up the road have been allowed to do so.

She says there's a ban on volunteer remedial teachers going to bush schools in the NT, yet she
knows teachers who would willingly go.

And she says there's a conflict in some communities that run their own airlines that then have a
vested interest to fly teachers in and out for a few hours at a time, rather than hire full-time
resident teachers.

She says the Territory must do more to recruit better teachers and introduce the same curriculum
for all students.

HELEN HUGHES: Fulfil the law, use the mainstream curriculum, prosecute parents if they don't send
their children to school. I don't think that's the problem. I think the parents are concerned,
they're desperate for good teaching, but they're being bullied into putting up with schools and
teaching that no non-Indigenous parents would put up with.

ANNE BARKER: The Territory's Education Minister has challenged the report's claims.

Marion Scrymgour denies her department publishes inaccurate figures and says Helen Hughes has based
her report on just one school.

MARION SCRYMGOUR: Helen Hughes is talking about Yilpara. Now, in some of the discussions that she
said about Yilpara and I just find it astounding that she basis a report and a generalisation
across the Northern Territory, Aboriginal communities based on one small homeland centre.

LISA MILLAR: The Northern Territory Education Minister, Marion Scrymgour, in that report by Anne
Barker.