Rural education’s Rubicon

Year: 2018

Author: Roberts, Philip

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The release of the report of the independent review into rural, regional and remote education provides a much-needed focus on the unique challenges and opportunities rural, regional and remote communities encounter.  However the report, and the federal government’s response, was a missed opportunity to address the longstanding challenges facing rural schools.  More significantly though, it raises serious questions about the impact of rural education research in Australia, and the effectiveness of rural education researchers in impacting education policy. 
In this presentation I ask ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘where do we go from here?’ as a research field.  While we may welcome the review’s call for further research into rural, regional and remote education, such a call implies that there is an absence of research.  Furthermore, the review largely ignored much of the rural education research produced in Australia.  Instead the review relied upon non-rural studies, grey literature, older research, international studies and submissions from communities. Why was so much recent Australian research overlooked? What does this mean? And what do we do as a result?
Responses to such provocations must also be considered in the context of the productivity commission report on the national evidence base, which questioned the quality and impact of Australian educational research more broadly.  As we look ahead to the proposed education research clearinghouse recommended under Gonski 2.0, how do we ensure our research is impactful?
In responding to the review I draw upon a review of ‘rural’ research published in the last 20 years, a review of research into attracting and retaining staff published in the last 15 years, and an analysis of the ‘independent review’ discussion paper and report.  I argue that the rural education field in Australia has reached its Rubicon.