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Indigenous Australians have been known to be disadvantaged in many ways although higher art and physical self-concepts have been reported with Indigenous samples. Given recent research demonstrating the reciprocal effects of achievement and self-concept in academic domains, Indigenous students may experience further disadvantages in both academic performance and self-concept. A sample of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students (N = 1,342) from schools in New South Wales (NSW), Australia were asked to respond to a survey measuring: 5 domains of self-concept (i.e., school, reading, maths, art, and physical abilities), 2 learning-related factors (enjoyment and participation), and a self-assessment of their school work. Their scores in a NSW state-wide assessment of students’ literacy and numeracy were also obtained. Confirmatory factor analysis established the self-concept and learning-related factors. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) using a 2 (identity: Indigenous vs. Non-Indigenous) x 2 (region: urban vs. rural) design found significant effects of identity for all variables except for art self-concept. That is, non-Indigenous students scored higher than Indigenous students in literacy and numeracy tests, self-concepts, learning-related factors, and self-ratings of school work, irrespective of region. The results did not support previous research demonstrating a relatively higher art self-concept for Indigenous children based on stereotypical perspectives. These results imply, that educators would be well advised to not assume stereotypic differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students or assume a great difference between Indigenous students from urban and rural school settings. However, there seems to be a need for improving the school environment so as to promote Indigenous students’ performance and enjoyment of school life.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access