We can’t leave regional kids behind!
If you’re a parent of school aged kids in regional Australia right now, you might agree that we can all take a collective deep breath. Holidays are now upon us and the pressure of ‘home-schooling’ has been lifted for a brief while.
COVID-19 has changed almost everything with know. It’s forced us to change the way we live; change the way we work and change the way our kids are educated.
Working remotely is now commonplace for most – regardless of where you live. It’s a situation no-one could have imagined or predicted. We are all trying to find the new the ‘new normal’, in a world that disruption is so prevalent.
At the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) we pride ourselves on knowing what is happening in regional Australia. Our network is made up of many and our reach is extremely wide. But over the last few weeks, we have had to reposition our work to manage our way through the changes imposed on all of us.
Face-to-face meetings have had to stop. Our events have been postponed. The way we interact with government has changed enormously. Last week, I met with the Regional Communications Minister, the Hon. Mark Coulton via teleconference. He was back home on the farm due to COVID-19. Everyone is having to learn new ways to communicate!
And while the RAI and many other businesses will work through the many challenges we are all facing, what concerns us is that our regional kids are facing bigger obstacles than most.
Over the last weeks, thousands of kids have started to hit the books at home – as classes have been moved out of school buildings and into our homes across the country.
For many kids, this means talking to their teacher and classmates on a computer screen. Completed work might be emailed back in to the teacher or saved on a student portal.
But what if you don’t have a computer? What if you don’t have internet? How are these kids getting on with their studies? The world is online. Kids are learning how to learn online. But it seems a large sector of regional kids are not.
At Warialda Public School, in Northern NSW, parents were surveyed about their IT facilities at home. Almost 40 percent said NO to having a computer at home. For those that did, half of them said internet wasn’t reliable.
In Victoria, School Principal of Edenhope College, Jon Neall said one in four of his students can’t access the internet at home – highlighting the gaps in education opportunities in regional Australia.
We know kids in regional Australia are already behind when it comes to education. They are still twice as likely (28%) to leave school before year 12 compared to students in metropolitan Areas (14%).
Last year, former Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine released his report which looked into the engagement and outcomes of post-school education for young people from rural, regional and remote Australia. The report shows that the current system is going backwards for our regional kids.
The Federal Government has broadly accepted the Committee’s seven main recommendations and we encourage work in this space. But that Report didn’t take in account the impact a global pandemic would have on our education system, and what this means for regional students. How could it have?
At this stage, it looks like most of our students will spend Term 2 at home. At the RAI, we are engaging with Government and regional stakeholders to see how we can get regional students online.
We’d love to hear from you about your regional education story and how lessons are being delivered at home. To contact us, email [email protected] The next few weeks and months will be filled with much uncertainty. But we can’t leave our leave our regional kids behind when it comes their education. It’s much too important for the future of the regions.