Seeking social justice and viable futures for rural and remote students and their communities

Year: 2019

Author: Bartholomaeus, Pam

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There are many ways to view social justice in education and decide what social justice might look like for a particular cohort of students. In Australia, the further students’ communities are located from metropolitan or large regional centres the poorer their results in literacy tests and other measures of educational success. However, education in many rural schools is complex with diverse student populations where some students thrive and are valued at school, but plan to leave their rural community on finishing school, while others want to remain in their rural community. There are also young people who will leave for a while and then return to their community.

There has been a significant shift of population from rural communities to metropolitan centres over the last couple of centuries, and a continuing movement in this direction. With a shrinking rural population comes a range of problems, particularly in an era of neoliberal economics where services and infrastructure are provided on the basis of usage and the economics of provision. With population decline some businesses close or relocate with further loss of population and reduced employment opportunities for those who remain. These trends highlight the need for more self-sufficiency in rural communities. Such futures require leaders to emerge able to identify novel solutions and then argue for their implementation.

This paper will draw on research using futures methodologies to argue that socially just education for students in rural locations needs to focus on more than measures of success such as high scores in tests and universal achievement of senior school credentials. Education needs to do more than prepare young people to leave their communities for brighter lights in metropolitan locations. Rather, a socially just provision of education for rural communities should be about equipping students to live well in their community, able to contribute to prosperity and wellbeing no matter what the future may present.