Constructing the rural school in Australia: A century of Rurality and Rural Education Research

Year: 2016

Author: Downes, Natalie, Roberts, Philip

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we examine the position of the rural in Australian Education Research over the last century.  The paper draws upon a literature review and a documentary analysis of the major Australian Education, and rural education, research journals and reports.  In so doing the paper traces the changing position of the rural and the changing construction of the ‘rural school problem’ within the context of contemporary education. Recognising the centralised character of Australian Education (Green & Letts, 2007) and the persistence of ‘rural educational disadvantage’ (HREOC, 2000) this paper illustrates how the rural has been subtly constructed differently throughout this time.  As the economic and social position of the rural has changed so has the purposes of rural schooling. Consequently the issues related to education of students in rural areas have changed: From an initial concern for the moral development of rural populations, to the provision of an agricultural workforce, and now to an internationally competitive economic workforce.  In each of these shifts the value of the rural, and what it is to be rural, has been repositioned with consequences for the education of students from these regions.  Finally this paper positions the Australian issue in relation to that of the United States of America (Azano & Biddle, 2016).