Israeli home education system helps Australia’s Indigenous children

Israeli home education system helps Australia's Indigenous children

The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY), an Israeli designed early learning program which has been operating in Australia, federally funded and under licence by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence since 1998, is back in the news.

The federal government has announced its latest expansion of the program, which has been making strides in improving the education of Indigenous children.

On January 17, Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, announced the launch of the process to select the country’s next 25 sites for HIPPY – up from the 50 locations currently in operation.

The announcement has sparked two prominent stories about the program over the past week, on National Indigenous Television (NITV) and the ABC.

In her report on January 31, NITV’s Sarah Abo noted that HIPPY had led to a 30 percent improvement in the cognitive development of the young participants, bringing them back on par with their counterparts in other, better served, communities of Australia.

The segment included an interview with one of the home administrators in the program.

Alice Springs grandmother Geraldine Stewart used the program to tutor two of her grandchildren who lost their mother.

“I wanted my grandchildren to have an education, they’d just come from the community,” Ms Stewart says.

They have now improved their English skills while maintaining their Pitjantjatjara language.

“They’re six and seven now and Jodie wins awards all the time, like role model awards at the school and Jade has just excelled in her learning,” she says.

“Jodie’s already talking about being a teacher.”

Meanwhile, ABC’s Nick Fogarty reported on February 3 from Albury-Wodonga, which is to be one of the new HIPPY locations.

Like Abo, Fogarty’s report also included glowing testimony from an Indigenous mother who tutors her children using the program’s methods.

“It’s mind-blowing knowing that my son, with HIPPY – HIPPY is across the world – he’s done activities that four year olds are doing across the world. And now he’s doing really well and winning awards at school.”

While the program’s Israeli roots were not mentioned in either the ABC report or the NITV broadcast (though it was touched upon in the text-based story which appeared on NITV’s website and in a web-only interview on ABC’s website), the program continues to be based in Israel and further developed under the guidance of its Israeli headquarters. Without fanfare, the program has dramatically improved the educational outlook of thousands of disadvantaged children in Australia and around the world.

According to the HIPPY website, the program began in 1969 as a research project by Avima Lombard of the Institute for Innovation at the School of Education of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was designed to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of home-based education intervention involving mothers and their preschool children from educationally disadvantaged sectors of the society.

Besides Australia, HIPPY currently operates in the United States, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Canada, El Salvador, Italy, and New Zealand.

Ahron Shapiro