A growing body of evidence suggests that engagement with quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs such as preschool can enhance children’s early development. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) provides a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between ECEC and children’s developmental outcomes in a full population cohort of Australian school entrants. The AEDC is a teacher-rated checklist that provides data on ECEC experiences in the year before starting school, as well as five important domains of child development at school entry: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge. In 2009, the AEDC was completed for 97.5% of Australian children in their first year of formal schooling (N=261,147; M=5 years, 7 months of age). Logistic regression analyses revealed that attendance at preschool was associated with reduced odds (OR=0.69, p<0.001 to OR=0.40, p<0.001) of being in the vulnerable range (<10th percentile) on four of the five AEDC domains (with the exception of emotional maturity; OR=0.89, p=0.002), compared to other ECEC experiences, or care exclusively by parents. Subsequent analyses revealed that this effect was evident for children living in both advantaged and disadvantaged communities. Together, the results suggest that engagement with preschool programs in Australia may present a plausible, equitable, and modifiable approach to improving children’s developmental outcomes.
Redressing developmental and school learning inequalities among children requires an understanding of the factors that influence development across population groups. This study utilized the 2009 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to explore the association of perinatal health and socio-demographic factors with early development of children in the Northern Territory of Australia. The study cohort included 1110 Aboriginal and 812 non-Aboriginal children, most aged 5 years, whose developmental status was assessed during their first year of full-time school enrollment. Individual-level information was probabilistically linked across three administrative datasets. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the association (odds ratio (OR)) between early life characteristics of children and teacher-rated vulnerability on one or more of five domains of development. The crude OR for developmental vulnerability was much greater for Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal children (OR: 6.93, 95% CI: 5.62–8.56). After adjustment for other variables, the increased risk of developmental vulnerability for Aboriginal children was substantially moderated (OR: 1.68, 95% CI: 1.21–2.32). Influential factors in the adjusted model included: English as a second language (OR: 3.11, 95% CI: 2.27–4.26), gestational age at birth of 34–36 weeks (OR: 2.08, 95% CI: 1.27–3.39) and living in a very remote area (OR: 1.68, 95% CI: 1.19–2.37). There was a gradient in the strength of the association with the level of primary caregiver’s education. An additional risk, for Aboriginal children only, was not having attended a day care or pre-school program (OR: 1.43, 95% CI: 1.01–2.04). The study demonstrates the emerging capacity for linkage of data across administrative datasets to inform our understanding of the extent to which multiple factors in early-life operate in their association with children’s early development. Our findings are of particular relevance to initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children by demonstrating that potentially modifiable health and socio-economic factors account for almost all of the difference in developmental vulnerabilities observed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.
Participation in a preschool program in the year before starting school can promote children’s healthy development, and has the potential to reduce inequities in developmental outcomes for at-risk subpopulations. In Australia, boosting preschool attendance has emerged as a national policy priority. In this paper, we draw on data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to describe preschool attendance in two sequential population cohorts, with preschool experiences in 2008 and 2011 reported retrospectively by teachers of children in their first year of school. Overall, findings show that the proportion of children attending preschool remained relatively stable between the two AEDC cohorts (in 2008, preschool attendance ranged from 57.0% to 85.8% across the states and territories, while in 2011, attendance ranged from 49.2% to 93.7%). At a subpopulation level, children from non-English speaking and Indigenous backgrounds and children living in disadvantaged communities all had substantially higher odds of not attending preschool in both 2008 and 2011. These findings highlight the need to maintain policy attention on efforts to further reduce barriers to preschool access for at-risk subpopulations, and the value of monitoring population trends in preschool attendance to better inform policy and service provision.
Anderson, I., et al. (2017). Health Determinants and Educational Outcomes for Indigenous Children. In: Indigenous Children Growing Up Strong: A Longitudinal Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families. M. Walter, K. L. Martin and G. Bodkin-Andrews. London, Palgrave Macmillan UK: 259-285.
It is well established that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children suffer high rates of both acute and chronic childhood illnesses. It is also well established that their level of academic achievement remains well below that of their non-Indigenous peers. This chapter’s focus is on answering the question of how these two dimensions of socio-health and wellbeing are related. This chapter uses data from the K cohort from LSIC Wave 6 to investigate the relationship between health and education. We found that both individual and family-level health determinants have an adverse affect on educational attainment among children at this age level (mean age of 9 years old). The aim is to make manifest the interaction between health and wellbeing and educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
Barton, R. (2017). Indigenous Participation in Arts Education: A Framework for Increasing Engagement and Learning Outcomes. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Global Arts Education. G. Barton and M. Baguley. London, Palgrave Macmillan UK: 307-322.
The arts have always been at the forefront of leading thinking, innovation and creativity (Grierson, 2008). They provide a well-walked path for the marginalised, rebellious and visionary to critically analyse perceptions in understanding ourselves and our world and to challenge the status quo (O’Brien & Donelan, 2007). At the same time, the Arts have also been integral in retaining elements of our culture against a barrage of change, and in some cases to re-enliven parts of our past that may have been lost, as is the case with many Indigenous peoples (Barrett, 2015). Of all the disciplines, it could be argued that science offers us the greatest opportunity to improve ourselves as a species, but it is the Arts that ensure we maintain our humanity in the process.
Hohepa, M. and L. McIntosh (2017). Transition to School for Indigenous Children. In: Pedagogies of Educational Transitions : European and Antipodean Research. N. Ballam, B. Perry and A. Garpelin. Cham, Springer International Publishing: 77-93.
This chapter considers current research literature on educational transitions from early childhood to primary school for Indigenous children, their families and communities. While there is a relatively small corpus of research on educational transitions pertaining to Indigenous peoples, there is an increasing policy focus across a number of countries and continents. Policy directions are examined with regard to the implications for Indigenous educational transitions in the Pedagogies of Educational Transitions (POET) countries of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. This chapter sets the scene for the following two chapters, which consider Indigenous educational transition as it has been researched in recent projects in these two countries. The current state of research linked to Indigenous educational transition in the respective countries is also explored. The emergence of Indigenous research approaches is discussed in terms of the implications these have for research into pedagogies of educational transition.
Phillips, J. and A. Luke (2017). Two Worlds Apart: Indigenous Community Perspectives and Non-Indigenous Teacher Perspectives on Australian Schools. In: Second International Handbook of Urban Education. W. T. Pink and G. W. Noblit. Cham, Springer International Publishing: 959-996.
There are well-trodden paths we could follow to introduce international readers of this Handbook to the education of Australia’s Indigenous peoples: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. We could start from a genocidal history of invasion, incarceration, residential schooling, forced labor, political and economic marginalisation. We could review current analyses of the effects of this history on traditional lands, Indigenous health, cultural and linguistic sustainability, economic and political participation, and education – noting the performance ‘gaps’ in schools on all conventional measures (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2012). We could begin from scholarship on Indigenous epistemologies and Aboriginal knowledge (e.g., Nakata 2008; Martin 2009), Indigenous re-appropriation of critical theory (Moreton-Robinson 2008), and powerful pan-Indigenous models of decolonisation (e.g., Smith 2012). However, this evaluation study of Indigenous school reform in Australia proceeds from lead us to a different starting point: listening to, hearing and engaging with the commentaries, voices, narratives and analyses of Indigenous community as they discuss and recount their experiences and current encounters with Australian state schools. Here we undertake a contrastive documentation of the views of Indigenous community members, Elders, parents, education workers, and young people and, indeed, of the views of their non-Indigenous teachers and school principals. This is a dramatic picture of two distinctive cultural lifeworlds, communities and worldviews in contact, of two very different ‘constructions’ by participants of a shared, mutual experience: everyday interaction in the social field of the Australian school. Taken together, our Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants repeatedly confirmed and corroborated a key theme: that Indigenous peoples continue to be viewed and ‘treated’ through the lens and language of cultural, intellectual and moral ‘deficit’.
Simpson, A., et al. (2017). Socioeconomic status as a factor in Indigenous and non-Indigenous children with hearing loss: analysis of national survey data. Australian Journal of Primary Health 23(2): 202-207.
In this paper, the association between socioeconomic status and speech, language and communication outcomes for primary-school-going children with hearing loss using population survey data was analysed. The dataset used for analysis consisted of 289 973 children in total, of which 3174 children had hearing loss. For all children, higher socioeconomic status was positively correlated with better speech, language and communication outcomes. A hearing loss was indicated for 1% of non-Indigenous children and 4.3% of Indigenous children. Non-Indigenous children with hearing loss were found to be fairly evenly distributed by socioeconomic status, whereas Indigenous children with hearing loss were found to be statistically significantly more likely to be living in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic areas. Socioeconomic status was found to affect developmental outcomes for all children, regardless of Indigenous and hearing loss status.
Trudgett, M., et al. (2017). Another Brick in the Wall? Parent Perceptions of School Educational Experiences of Indigenous Australian Children. In: Indigenous Children Growing Up Strong: A Longitudinal Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families. M. Walter, K. L. Martin and G. Bodkin-Andrews. London, Palgrave Macmillan UK: 233-258.
Within the Australian and international research literature the likely importance of how schools and teachers relate to and interact with Indigenous parents and children has been identified. Despite this, there is as yet little Australian research in this area. This chapter addresses this question. The results find that Parent 1s’ perception that the teacher of the study child was sensitive to the needs of Indigenous families was regularly and positively linked to good relationships with the school. This finding strongly suggests that the relationships between teachers and parents are not only of great importance, but that the nature of this relationship must move beyond a homogeneous and Eurocentric understanding of what constitutes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and their families.
Background: Sleep duration and sleep schedule variability have been related to negative health and well-being outcomes in children, but little is known about Australian Indigenous children. Methods: Data for children aged 7-9 years came from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children and the National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Latent class analysis determined sleep classes taking into account sleep duration, bedtimes, waketimes, and variability in bedtimes from weekdays to weekends. Regression models tested whether the sleep classes were cross-sectionally associated with grade 3 NAPLAN scores. Latent change score modeling then examined whether the sleep classes predicted changes in NAPLAN performance from grades 3 to 5. Results: Five sleep schedule classes were identified: normative sleep, early risers, long sleep, variable sleep, and short sleep. Overall, long sleepers performed best, with those with reduced sleep (short sleepers and early risers) performing the worse on grammar, numeracy, and writing performance. Latent change score results also showed that long sleepers performed best in spelling and writing and short sleepers and typical sleepers performed the worst over time. Conclusions: In this sample of Australian Indigenous children, short sleep was associated with poorer school performance compared with long sleep, with this performance worsening over time for some performance indicators. Other sleep schedules (eg, early wake times and variable sleep) also had some relationships with school performance. As sleep scheduling is modifiable, this offers opportunity for improvement in sleep and thus performance outcomes for these and potentially all children.
Holzinger, L. A. and N. Biddle (2018). The relationship between early childhood education and care (ECEC) and the outcomes of Indigenous children: evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC). Canberra, ACT : Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Research School of Social Sciences, College of Arts & Social Sciences, The Australian National University.
This study presents the most robust evidence to date of the importance of engaging Indigenous children in early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs to boost cognitive and developmental outcomes in the short term (2 years after ECEC participation) and longer term (3–5 years after ECEC participation). We highlight differences between whether a child attended preschool or child care, and explore how the number of hours attended affects cognitive and developmental outcomes. Preschool attendance was associated with better short-term cognitive outcomes, as well as better cognitive and developmental outcomes in the longer term. There were not, however, significant effects associated with the number of preschool hours attended. Child-care attendance was associated with longer term cognitive and developmental improvements, but there is also some evidence that spending too long at child care can be detrimental to children’s developmental and cognitive outcomes.
Maxwell, J., et al. (2018). The re-creation and resolution of the ‘problem’ of Indigenous education in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cross-curriculum priority. The Australian Educational Researcher 45(2): 161-177.
This paper focuses on the ‘problem’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education represented in the Australian Curriculum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures cross-curriculum priority. Looking beyond particular curriculum content, we uncover the policy discourses that construct (and reconstruct) the cross-curriculum priority. In the years after the Australian Curriculum’s creation, curriculum authors have moulded the priority from an initiative without a clear purpose into a purported solution to the ‘Indigenous problem’ of educational underachievement, student resistance and disengagement. As the cross-curriculum priority was created and subsequently reframed, the ‘problem’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education has thereby been manifested in policy, strategised as curriculum content and precipitated in the cross-curriculum priority. These policy problematisations perpetuate contemporary racialisation and actively construct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, histories and knowledges as deficient.
Pearce, W. M. and K. Flanagan (2018). Language abilities of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children from low socioeconomic backgrounds in their first year of school. International journal of speech-language pathology: 1-12.
Purpose: Concern exists about the cross-cultural appropriateness of existing language assessments for non-mainstream populations, including Indigenous children who may speak a non-standard dialect of the mainstream language. This study therefore aims to investigate the language skills of Indigenous Australian children in comparison with non-Indigenous children, with a view to exploring the cultural appropriateness of language sampling assessment methods. Method: The performance of 51 typically developing Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children was compared on a standardised assessment and a spoken narrative protocol using language sample analysis measures. All children were in their first year of school and from the same regional city. Result: While the Indigenous children attained significantly lower receptive vocabulary scores than the non-Indigenous children, most language sampling measures from the spoken narrative protocol were similar across the two groups of children.Conclusion: Flexible, naturalistic language sampling approaches using a spoken narrative protocol are thus recommended for Indigenous children from the under-researched Australian context. However, normative data for language sampling are lacking, and further research is needed to explore the cultural validity of assessment and diagnostic procedures for Indigenous Australian children, as well as the influence of socioeconomic and family factors on language skills.
SOURCE: Investing in Indigenous Children – A selection of articles from a variety of sources
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