Conflicting missions: The confound of rural-regional sustainability when education policy and (rural) community values conflict

Year: 2015

Author: Roberts, Philip

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I report on a two-year project exploring education and sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) of Australia. This paper reports on one of the key findings of the first phase of the project; that the meanings of sustainability in use by schools and teachers are at odds with the understandings of sustainability in operation in the communities of the MDB. The paper draws upon data from the project survey designed to elicit understandings and meanings of sustainability in communities and schools, and a document analysis of sustainability in education policy and curriculum for the six jurisdictions that span the MDB. The analysis found that communities have a strong Triple Bottom Line (TBL) understanding of sustainability in use and are highly committed to sustainability. However it also found that while schools are equally committed to sustainability they have a highly environmentally focussed understanding of sustainability in use. Furthermore, the document and policy analysis revealed that while a TBL understanding of sustainability is prefaced the examples, curriculum links and proposed actions overwhelmingly privilege an environmental meaning. This paper subsequently explores what these conflicting understandings mean for rural-regional sustainability and the connection between rural schools and their communities.