In Focus: CEP Chairman Mike Stephens on the Victorian Election and What it Means for Us
As we draw closer to the state election, I am concerned there are still more questions than answers.
While there have been many areas highlighted by political parties, concerning the provision of education in Victoria, there has been little detail about initiatives to address specific challenges affecting rural and remote school communities.
It is safe to say these challenges have been well documented in recent years through well-publicised research.
From early childhood, through formal schooling and into tertiary studies — the issues maligning the provision of quality education in country schools are apparent.
Our rural and remote education communities critically require better support and focus so that they are equipped to:
- provide a breadth of learning opportunities;
- attract and retain educators and education leaders;
- provide quality and accessible professional learning for educators; and
- lift the aspirations of rural and remote young people.
I refer to the Gonski Institute, which released a report on this very issue just last month (Economic Impact of Improving Regional, Rural and Remote Education in Australia).
The report documented the difference in educational outcomes between regional, rural and remote Australia and urban Australia.
It then quantified the economic impact of these disparities and found, as a nation, we would add up to $53 billion to our annual GDP if we better invested in the education of kids in regional, rural and remote areas.
Add to this the findings of the Federal Inquiry into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (the Halsey Report), which was released back in May.
This report clearly lamented that country pupils had been left to “lag behind urban students for decades”.
In this context, the Country Education Partnership (CEP) has strongly urged all political parties in the Victorian election to declare what they would do — how they would implement change in their backyard.
We have consistently advocated for the development of a specific and targeted strategy to overcome the key challenges impeding the provision of high-quality, equitable education in rural and remote schools.
Our plea for action was summarised in our own Education Paper (A Case for Action), which we released in October.
A Case for Action includes 19 recommendations for the future course of country education and urged all relevant authorities to commit to targeted measures for change, through the creation of a Rural Education Blueprint.
Central to this Blueprint would be the establishment of clear strategy designed to resourcefully build the capacity of rural and remote education communities.
But what of it?
Have we seen any specific election promises for rural and remote education?
There have been some.
For example, we’ve seen general announcements from both major parties, including Labor’s pledge to expand VCE subject availability through virtual learning.
And, from the Coalition, a promise to establish a new, dedicated program to help country school-leavers relocating from home to attend university.
These proposals are very welcome, and we look forward to their establishment by whomever forms government after Sunday.
But I have to ask, is this enough?
— Mike Stephens,