Access, Aspirations and Achievement: Normalizing Year 12 in Rural Tasmania

Questions of educational access, academic achievement, secondary school retention, family and community cultural and economic practices, as well as social capital have long been on the policy agenda in the Australian state of Tasmania. Tasmania graduates fewer of its students from year 12 than any other Australian state and its performance on standard measures of academic achievement is typically the lowest in the country with the exception of the Northern Territory. These results are often linked in social and economic development discussions and in policy and governance discourse to the relatively low levels of productivity, high levels of unemployment and welfare dependency in the Tasmanian economy. As a result there has been considerable policy attention paid to chronic educational underachievement, a situation that is most acute in specific urban neighbourhoods and in the rural areas of the state (West, 2013). This paper is concerned with the situation in the rural parts of Tasmania.