Quantifying the Regional Education Gap

Photo: Pexels

Is it really harder for regional and rural students to go to uni, TAFE or to get the skills they need for the jobs they want? Apparently, it is. A new index has highlighted the education gap between people living in regional and metropolitan areas.

We’re told that education is a lifelong journey, but if you live in rural Australia or even in regional Australia, you are less likely to get the education or skills training that you need to achieve your career goals. This is the finding of a new study released by the Regional Australia Institute in partnership with the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

The federal government has announced an Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education, and this time an independent review seems to be based on much more than pandering to marginal regional electorates.

According to the Regional Institute of Australia, we are on track to have the most segregated education system in the OECD. Across Australia, where a person lives is now second only to socioeconomic status as a determinant for success.

In order to bridge the education divide, Regional Australia Institute CEO, Jack Archer, believes that Australia will need to radically lift access to learning opportunities in regions, supporting educators and other leaders to solve key local challenges to “build a culture of learning led from within our towns and communities. If we want to shift things we need a leapfrog strategy founded in national ambition.

 “We won’t win this battle with one-time national reforms on systemic issues, the answer is to go all in. The outcome we want most is that in regions, every person is engaged in education in some way.” – Jack Archer, Regional Australia Institute CEO

The Institute says that building a lifelong culture of learning in regional Australia is critical to not only bridging the educational divide but to the economic prosperity of regional Australia. They say that not only will investing in learning across the lifecycle build a more skilled and agile workforce it is imperative to keeping up with technological change.

“Technology change and job mobility means the concept of one-time education completed early in life is fast becoming obsolete,” Mr Archer said.

“Australia cannot afford a two-speed education system, which compounds existing health, opportunity and income gaps in regional areas.”

Regional Australia Institute CEO, Jack Archer

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Chairman, Robert Johanson, also urged for more to be done to achieve education equity, as he announced more than $1 million in scholarships to help over 90 university students from across Australia in 2017.

“Young regional people tell us they face many barriers, which go beyond reduced access to formal education services to include a lack of access to non-traditional forms of training, including job-readiness and up-skilling programs.

“We need to act to improve outcomes for young people in rural communities - if left unaddressed, an already glaring disparity is likely to grow from a gap to a chasm,” he said.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor, Jane den Hollander, and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Chairman, Robert Johanson, with Deakin students.

The Regional Australia Institute’s [In]Sight-Human Capital Index looks at educational development across ages and stages on a region by region basis.

Key data from the Index shows that as it stands:

  • Based on NAPLAN results, regional areas perform significantly lower than their metropolitan neighbours in both primary and secondary numeracy and literacy
  • The proportion of young regional Australians (aged 15-24) not engaged in either education or employment is 44% higher than metropolitan areas
  • This divide carries through to post-secondary education too, with 9% fewer Australians in regional areas university qualified.

But it is not all bad news. Some regions preformed well in specific educational segments like primary numeracy and literacy and ‘learning or earning’. However, while these regions performed highly against select indicators, against other measures they did not do so well.

“The diversity of regional strengths and weaknesses means that while our standard schools funding debate, VET or university reform options can contribute, on their own each will fail to solve the problem of the regional divide,” Mr Archer said.

Feature Image Courtesy: Tract Consulting
Website by Red Onion Creative