From the Chair

rural teach academy main picMy interest was piqued recently as I read an article in The Age entitled “Meet the remote small Business Owner Making a Killing”.

Whilst its focus was clearly on small businesses in the bush, my thoughts moved quickly to the implications, synergies and opportunities for rural education.

Reflecting on the stories of the three businesses in the article the people involved seemed to have several common traits:

  • Analytical skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Facility with the internet, digital media and tools
  • Financial literacy
  • Soft skills such as empathy, willingness to see things from different perspectives
  • Open mindedness

DOnald Drought 3(These of course have as their foundation literacy, numeracy and communication skills.)

Their stories were interesting but it was the comments of Regional Institute of Australia (RIA), CEO, Jack Archer, which pulled it all together:

“SMEs in regional and remote locations across Australia have an opportunity at their fingertips. The internet and digital tools are opening up many new windows for businesses to expand their offerings, to target new markets and locations not just in Australia, but internationally.” he said.

I went on to read an article on their website:

“If we want to build great small cities in Australia we have to focus on nurturing the new economy and helping people deliver the new skills this economy needs to grow,”

said Jack Archer CEO of the Regional Australia Institute.

“It’s time to let go of those creaking factories and embrace the future as specialised global service hubs,” he concluded.

Much of what Jack Archer wrote rings a bell for me. When my wife Marg and I set up our consultancy business in 1991, the internet was in its infancy, Microbee, IBM compatible, Commodore were the ‘go to’ computers with Apple starting to gain ground. Floppy discs stored your data, faxes still amazed everyone, only early adopters had splurged on a car phone or ‘mobile brick’, there were no datashow projectors, hardly anyone knew what a gigabyte was let alone a terabyte.

Avenel Kinder 2To send a file to colleagues in Sydney we had to phone, get them to switch on their computer, turn on Winfax Pro, send the file and hope it got there.

Today, we carry basically all we need in a smart phone!

Some of the key questions from the Age article and Jack Archer’s comments that sprung to mind when considering rural and remote education were:

  • To what extent is what we do influenced by what we have experienced and what we are comfortable with?
  • How open are we to new ways of doing things and looking at what we do from different perspectives?
  • How can we use our ignorance / lack of knowledge to open up new paths for learning and finding new ways of doing things?
  • Orbost SC photoWhat are the implications for:
    • What we teach?
    • How we teach?
    • How we organise within our schools?
    • How we engage our communities?
    • How we utilise the flexibility we have in rural and remote schools?
    • Identifying who is doing these things well in Victoria? Interstate, Overseas?
    • Exploring better ways of structuring our schools to capitalise on and share the talents of our teachers and students across education settings?
    • How do we inspire our students and open up new horizons for them?
    • How do we evaluate, and challenge the status quo?
    • Identifying and challenging ‘Sacred Cows’?

As an organisation, Country Education Partnership is committed to support rural and remote schools grapple with such questions. Our Alliances, our study tours, our conferences and our Professional Development programs are some of the vehicles we use to help further the cause of students and teachers in rural and remote communities.

MEC #10On another note, congratulations to all the schools (especially the rural and remote schools) nominated for the recent Victorian Education Excellence awards recently. Congratulation in particular to the Maryborough Education Centre Specialist Team for winning the “Outstanding Education Support Team Award”.

I would also like to congratulate the 2015 Rural Youth Ambassadors who were nominated as a finalist in the VicSRC Awards recently for their work in facilitating the Rural Education Conference earlier this year. Well done.

VicSRC Awards 2Finally, best wishes to all those sitting exams. Whilst Tertiary Education is a worthwhile ambition for many of our students, there are numerous pathways you can take to realise your goals.

Thank you for all you do in providing for our rural and remote students the best possible education, and for the contribution you make to their families and the communities you serve.