Challenging the Great Divide: Metrocentric Educational Policy and Practices.

Year: 2019

Author: Ledger, Susan, Masinire, Alfred, Delgado, Miguel Angel Diaz

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Trends in urban growth has seen regional attractiveness decrease and an ageing and shrinking rural population. Both trends resulting in declining opportunities for development, investment and access to services in rural, regional and remote (RRR) contexts (OECD, 2018). This image of RRR discourse represents “persistent and entrenched locational disadvantage” (Reid, 2017, p.88). Moreover, metrocentric educational policy texts contribute further to the widening division between rural and urban schooling. Whilst accepting that there are challenges in RRR contexts, it is important to counter current discourse by encouraging ‘success place studies’ as a starting point for change (Reid, 2017). Principals and teachers are central to developing a culture of change and community of practice in RRR contexts because the provision of ‘quality education’ lay at the heart of any RRR community success. Education has the ability to attract families to the region as well as provide employment opportunities for locals (Trinidad et al, 2014).

But how are governments around the globe ensuring ‘quality education’ is provided and maintained in regional, RRR contexts? How are government policies reflecting the whole of community needs of RRR contexts? Building on Halsey’s (2018) Independent Review of Australian contexts, this study investigated national policy directives, pre-service teacher programs, and innovative RRR practices in Australia, Mexico and South Africa. This study uncovers systemic imperatives and approaches that address the unique needs of RRR education. Ledger’s (2017) policy analysis framework was used to triangulate the overall findings and reveal policy influences, outcomes and exemplars of educational initiatives and creative responses to local contextual assets.

Given that many policy recommendations exist that focus on RRR challenges, this paper offers recommendations in terms of potentialities for knowledge building in RRR education (Masinire, 2014). The findings provide five starting points for educators and policy makers: 1.Build on the assets of ‘people and place’ within RRR contexts. 2. Prepare and support leaders and teachers to find creative ways to connect, respect and adapt to the local context. 3. Provide good educational outcomes and transferable skills for RRR students and teachers. 4. Attend to silences of RRR within teacher education policy and practices. 5. Integrate local government policies.

Knowledge building in RRR contexts is complex and requires multi-sector, integrated policy decisions. Future proofing RRR schooling rests in the hands of teachers at the chalkface, leaders within these contexts, and the integration of local, state and national RRR policy directives.