Transforming Rural Education Agendas

Year: 2016

Author: Walker-Gibbs, Bernadette, Kline, Jodie, Ludecke, Michelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation interrogates current teacher education policy and discourse by asking the question “Where’s the rural in that?” The authors begin by identifying and comparing key teacher education policy documents in Australia to international documentation, with the view to gaining greater understanding of the policy imperatives impacting  on the ‘how’ of preparing teachers in a diversity of contexts. References to rural and/or regional education are explored using “Pedagogy of the Rural” (Walker-Gibbs, Ludecke and Kline, 2015, p.1), an approach designed to conceptualise rural understandings as a pedagogy that is not “‘for’ or ‘about’ but rather ‘of’ the rural”. By asking the question ‘Where is the rural in that?’ what is deemed valuable or inherent within diverse and dispersed rural and regional teacher education settings are unmasked and made open to critique. Findings from this work reveal that it is a particularly difficult time in Australia for rural and regionally located teacher education. The focus of (teacher) education policy is geared towards urban contexts and ‘caps off’ has meant that increasingly there are declining numbers of students attending universities in rural and regional locations – in particular lower rates of students from low SES rural backgrounds. Associated with this is a continual and pervasive deficit perception of education in rural and regional Australia that dominates conversations, in turn, creating barriers to educational achievement, ‘quality’ teaching and access and opportunity.It is argued that in order for teacher education to be transformed we need to shift away from the neo-liberal agendas that inhibit the work of rural educators and to look to the pedagogical opportunities unique to rural and regional contexts that have potential benefits for the teaching practice and development of all educators; and, most importantly, best service the needs of students.