With a state election looming, the Country Education Partnership (CEP) has pleaded for political parties to commit to an overall of education in rural and remote Victoria.
CEP says without significant change, students “from the bush” would continue to fall behind their urban counterparts due to inequitable access to learning opportunities.
CEP Chairman Mike Stephens said there was sufficient evidence to suggest the state’s rural and remote education had become an “equity issue for government and education sectors”.
While education sectors have provided some support to address the rural and remote education challenge, urgent action should be pledged through the creation of a strategic and targeted “Rural Education Blueprint”.
“The statistics cannot be denied — rural education is consistently missing out and it’s not a new issue; this crisis has been well documented and openly discussed,” Mr Stephens said.
“Earlier this year the Federal Inquiry into Regional, Rural and Remote Education made it very plain that country pupils had ‘lagged behind urban students for decades’ but, perhaps more alarmingly, the same findings were made all the way back in 1993 in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Report.
“Again, within the Victorian context, we saw the same challenges highlighted in the Auditor General’s Report of 2014 – so, the question remains what is actually being done to create change?”
CEP has this month released its paper, “Education in Rural Victoria – A Case for Action” (attached below).
It urges governments, and all relevant authorities to work together to create and implement specific and targeted initiatives to address critical issues facing country schools — such as the recruitment and retention of quality teachers and education leaders; lower levels of student aspirations; flagging education outcomes, lower levels of participation within higher education and limited access to curriculum opportunities.
“In their first year of formal full-time schooling, children in remote communities are almost three times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains of the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), compared to children living in major cities,” Mr Stephens said.
“Of the 40 Local Government areas across Victoria where children are more highly represented on this indicator, the majority are in regional and rural Victoria,” he said.
“There are challenging issues affecting rural and remote education from start to finish — from our toddlers in pre-school to our young adults transitioning to tertiary studies and the workforce.
“We must start somewhere to turn the tide and now is that time; now is the time for action.”
Education in Rural Victoria – A Case for Action includes 19 Proposed Actions that could provide the basis for the future direction of Victoria’s rural and remote education.
The plea for a Rural Education Blueprint is first priority, followed by the establishment of a state-wide Reference Group, comprising representatives from all levels of education, to oversee the Blueprint’s development and implementation.
“By establishing a Rural Education Blueprint, we must visibly set-out definitive measures and initiatives that will result in genuine action and genuine change,” Mr Stephens said.
“It is not enough to identify that there is a real issue, the challenge is distinguishing exactly how the challenges will be fixed.”