Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Student Attendance rates have always been an issue for remote indigenous students. Indigenous student attendance has always been lower than in non-remote areas, and the attendance gap remains larger in remote areas. In 2017, the attendance for Indigenous students nationally was 83.2 percent compared to 93.0 percent for non-indigenous students. However, there have been no meaningful improvements in any states and territories to encourage indigenous students to attend school. In the Northern Territory alone, indigenous student rates fell from 70.2 percent in 2014 to 66.2 percent in 2017.
There are impacts of indigenous students not attending school, which can be due to unique circumstances and various factors. Nevertheless, non-attendance remains an issue and presents multiple effects on students, both academically and socially. Absenteeism from school can increase social isolation and lack of engagement with the school community, teachers, and peers, leading to emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Non-attendance may be based on school-related factors, or it might stem from individual or family contexts. Studies have shown that declining attendance habits in primary and secondary school have significant ramifications in the later years of schooling and student outcomes.
Individual factors may relate to a student's attitudes or motivations toward education which can influence their attendance. Some factors may include:
Academic self-esteem — They may feel academically inadequate and question their academic ability;
Negative attitudes toward teachers;
Lack of motivation or goals;
Being the victim of bullying and not feeling safe at school;
Lack of connectedness to school and peers.
Various family factors or parental attitudes can shape a student's perception of school and attendance. Family involvement, such as providing support for homework and academic progress or monitoring school attendance and participation, can increase the student's engagement in school. Yet, a lack of parental involvement may harm student attendance. Likewise, the daily reality of the family context can have a considerable impact on a student's education. For instance, poverty, remoteness, accessible transport, and limited schooling options contribute to absenteeism.
The school environment can contribute to a student's decision about attendance. For example, if a student suspects an environment of bullying and intolerance, they may not feel safe to attend school. A sense of belonging in the school community is also connected to absenteeism. A lack of belonging or connectedness to the school community may be related to poor relationships with peers or teachers or conflict and ostracism with peer groups.
How can non-attendance be positively addressed?
Addressing attendance and absenteeism requires an integrated approach to engagement that targets students' individual circumstances both within and outside the classroom. Such a way is for the education system to move from the standard teaching model and into a more individualised approach to maximise the learning and development of each student. This system is significant for specific groups. For instance, encouraging attendance amongst Indigenous students is a challenge as that requires more than just acknowledgment of the problem. It requires an authentic approach to address the issues of attendance and engagement amongst these students.
By increasing student attendance and encouraging engagement in the school community, we can lay the foundations for success. By setting attendance standards early, ensuring that students feel a sense of belonging in the school community, and planning individualised and culturally authentic approaches to address attendance, teachers and the school community will be better equipped to support students and help them engage with the education.
At Nhuubala Yugal Education Centre, it is our goal and mission to support students with individualised approaches to learning and to ensure that every student has fun engaging with education. By doing this we endeavour to support students by regularly encouraging attendance toward education so that they do not fall behind. To support the students at NYEC and Moree, please consider donating to our Empower Campaign, where we aim to provide accessible education and encourage attendance.
Written by Izabela Miletic