The barriers and challenges hampering regional, rural and remote students from improving educational outcomes will be looked at in an independent review.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce and Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Thursday announced a review of regional education to ensure those students go on to further study, training and employment.
The Australian reported about one-third of regional and remote students do not complete Year 12, and the number rises to almost two-thirds for very remote students.
University participation rates have remained low over many years at around 18 per cent, despite increased participation in cities under the demand-driven system.
“The Coalition Government’s independent comprehensive review into equity of education access for rural and regional students will seek fresh ideas and fresh thinking to bridge the divide,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said.
“There’s a clear disparity between education in the bush and the city — this seeks to address the gap of achievement, aspiration and access to higher education faced by regional students.”
Senator Birmingham said the independent review would be led by Emeritus Professor John Halsey of Flinders University and regional education needed to be looked at as a “complete puzzle” and not as separate school, higher education and training sectors.
“This review will look at education from school entry to job success and how we can improve results for rural and regional people,” he said.
“We must drive and better set policy to encourage ambition among our country students. Regional and remote students made up just 18.8 per cent of domestic undergraduate students at universities, compared to making up 26.4 per cent of the population in 2016.’’
John Dewar, vice-chancellor of La Trobe University told The Australian it was important to lift higher education participation rates.
“We are doing our bit already — such as partnerships with TAFE for dual enrolments — but there is still much more work required,” he said.
“We are fully committed to our regional campuses and want to build on their important contribution, not wind it back.”
Corenna Haythorpe, federal president of the Australian Education Union described the review as cynical and illustrated “shambolic their schools funding policy is”.
“Minister Birmingham is saying on one hand they will negotiate a new funding model with the states and territories in the next months, and with the other he is announcing a review that won’t report until the end of this year,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Gaps in achievement between regional schools and city schools reflect gaps in resourcing.
“The most recent PISA report showed that secondary students in rural and remote schools are up to three years behind students of the same age from high-SES backgrounds in major cities.”
The final report and recommendations is expected to be delivered to the federal government by the end of the year.