The Federal Government has announced it will launch a comprehensive review into regional education with the aim of improving school and vocational opportunities and outcomes.
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, said the review would be critical in addressing the key barriers and challenges that impact on the educational outcomes of regional, rural and remote students.
“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,” Joyce said in a statement.
Joyce added that there is “a clear disparity” between metropolitan and rural education, and that the review seeks to address the gap of achievement, aspiration and access to higher education faced by regional students.
“That’s why we are going out to the edges, to hear from our regional communities in order to find solutions to build the skills of regional Australians to allow our youth better jobs and better opportunities no matter where they live,” he added.
Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, said the independent review would be led by Emeritus Professor, John Halsey, of Flinders University.
Halsey commenced his career as a teacher and was a principal of two schools in South Australia and his experience spans across numerous positions outside of the classroom on advisory boards and in educational leadership roles.
Birmingham said 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,” Birmingham said.
He pointed out that approximately one-third of regional and remote students do not complete Year 12 or an equivalent unit of study and that number rises to almost two thirds of very remote students.
“We must drive and better set policy to encourage ambition among our country students. Regional and remote students made up just 18.8% of domestic undergraduate students at universities, compared to making up 26.4% of the population in 2016,” he said.
Birmingham called on “all interested parties”, including representatives from the education community, families, employer groups and the philanthropic sector to make a submission or take part in the face-to-face consultations.
A discussion paper and online platform for public submissions will be available from April 2017.