An analysis of recent rural policy and scholarly works through a bi-dimensional justice framework: more recognition and less distribution?

Year: 2021

Author: Cuervo, Hernan

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The latest policy document on the quality of teacher argues for the need to lift the standards of teaching in Australian schools (see Tudge, 2021). While the policy document, Quality Initial Teacher Education Review 2021 Discussion Paper, consists of more than 7100 words, the word “rural” only appears five times. In this Discussion paper, “Rural” is used as in most Australian education policy documents as evidence of disadvantage and inequality in the education system. Other recent Australian education policy initiatives affirm the government’s commitment to social justice in rural schooling (Australian Government 2008, Gonski 2012, Halsey, 2018). A recurrent aim in these policies is the idea that all students should be entitled to benefit from the same high-quality education and that schooling should be free from differences arising from student’s geographic location. In the last 18 months, an array of important books on rural education themes has been published by scholars in Australia and international (see Corbett & Gereluk, 2020; Gristy et al., 2020; Roberts & Fuqua, 2021; White & Downey, 2020). This confirms the vibrancy of rural education research around the globe. All these contributions are edited collections showcasing a plethora of analysis, ideas and arguments around current issues in rural education around the world. Some of these issues focus on historical education policy, teacher education, the role of online education in rural schools and methodological approaches to research rural schooling.In both these policy and research bodies of work the idea and practice of social justice is at the centre of their arguments and aims. In this exploratory paper, I focus on a handful of the policies and scholarly works mentioned above to examine what type of justice claims and analysis dominate discourses and conceptualisations around rural education policy and research. The aim of this analysis is to unearth if recent policy and scholarly arguments for a socially just rural education continue anchored in a distributive dimension or if a politics of recognition has made inroads into explaining inequities in rural schooling. Ultimately, I argue that the policy and scholarly obsession with a better distribution of material resources in rural education has obscured the significance of a politics of recognition that puts place as an important category to understand the complexities of rural education and that re-signifies rural knowledges and experiences.