CQ students set to receive boost thanks to government review
IMPROVING the educational outcomes for rural and regional students is a labour of love that has kept Professor John Halsey extremely busy.
Mr Halsey has extensively toured regional Australia over the past six months, conducting community forums gathering information for his review into regional, rural and remote education with Rockhampton's CQUniversity the latest stop on his journey last week.
Rural and regional students have traditionally underperformed when compared with their metropolitan peers and Prof Halsey had been tasked with determining what the key issues, challenges and barriers were and to bridge that gap to achieve better outcomes.
"I really like coming out and visiting rural communities and conducting these forums and consultations with people,” Prof Halsey said.
"What happens is people illuminate issues, often with a great story, that really captures the issue you're trying to grapple with.
"I'm not about reinventing the wheel - by coming out and speaking to people in the context that they live and work in and there's something that's working well and can be adapted and applied further afield, let's do it.”
The review, which started in March, was a component of the federal government's $152 million Regional Student Access to Education package which is due to commence in 2017-18.
The Flinders University professor was the perfect man to be tasked with the review given he has been an educator since the 1960s and gained a myriad of insights into the challenges faced in the education process away from the big cities.
By conducting the forums Mr Halsey was intent on finding ways to increase and expand the aspirations, achievements and opportunities for students in the regional and rural settings by identifying areas in need of improvement within the educational system.
There were numerous areas he's already earmarked for modification including curriculum and assessment, teaching, leadership, school and community partnerships, information and communication technology, entrepreneurship, improving student access, catering to diversity and assisting with the transition beyond school.
"Schooling as we know it works for the majority of people but for some, the shoe pinches and partly this is because they find schooling inflexible,” he said.
"They understand that schooling is necessary but it would be much more motivational if it zeroed in and commenced with their interests base and then built an education program out from that.”
By employing experienced teachers who are capable of adapting the curriculum to tailor the education to suit the interests and diversity of regional students, their passion for learning can be greatly increased.
Prof Halsey said there was a critical importance for good leaders to foster a culture of learning in these outer lying areas and that can often be enhanced by forming partnerships and entrepreneurial ventures with businesses and community organisations.
Students in these outlying areas are often unsure of what options they had beyond schooling so establishing a clear pathway into VET studies or university with adequate support was earmarked by Prof Halsey for improvement.
"It's important that young people have a sense of hope and be supported consistently in making that hope become reality,” he said.
"We discussed aspirations and how people in regional, rural and remote Australia get a sense of the big picture or wider opportunities in life.”
Senator Matt Canavan said these forums were part of the federal government's commitment last year to invest more in education standards for rural and regional students.
"We put $152 million towards increasing the assistance provided to isolated children who have to go to boarding school,” Mr Canavan said.
"Also to expand access to ABSTUDY for rural and regional students making it so that they didn't have to work for 18 months, they only have to work for 14 months part time.
"The other component was the independent review into rural and regional education to see what else could be done to help improve results.”
As a regional based Senator, Matt Canavan had a keen interest in learning of Mr Halsey's conclusions.
"It typically is the case that students in rural and regional areas both don't achieve as strong academic results as those in the major cities and then don't take up tertiary or vocational education to the same degree,” he said.
"I firmly believe that your postcode shouldn't determine that your postcode shouldn't determine your academic opportunities in life and we want to make sure that ever child in Australia has that opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
Mr Halsey was due to provide the government with the completed report by the end of 2017.