Home' Capricornus Quarterly : October 2013 Contents 19
Research presented to the Australian
College of Educators shows country schools
outperforming or performing as well as
city schools, challenging widely held beliefs
that education provided in Australia’s
cities produce better academic results
because of better access to resources,
cultural institutions and teachers.
“There’s cause to turn around that metro-
mindset. ‘Country’ does not have to be a
deficit by definition,” says Professor John
Halsey of South Australia’s Flinders Universit y.
Some of the reasons behind this according
to Professor Halsey, Sidney Myer Chair
of Rural Education and Communities,
are because of the connections that
regional or country schools, especially
boarding schools, have among students,
teachers, the communit y and the land.
Teachers in country settings for example
often know their students better. They’re
generally from the communit y and intimately
know the environment and context in which
their students learn and that, according
to Dr Halsey, makes a big difference to
students’ comfort and engagement levels.
Such a “rural fishbowl” can be
advantageous to the student.
“ Here I am thinking of scale, relationships,
knowing how to navigate and negotiate life’s
journey in a context where most people know
of and about each other; where opportunities
for leadership are prevalent, open and
diverse and where connection to nature and
what it means for identity and agency is
Going beyond the city limits
Regional schools like The Rockhampton Grammar School provide excellent opportunities
for students and they’re essential for Australia’s future writes Mike Donahue
often part and parcel of day to day living,”
Dr Halsey told Capricornus Quarterly.
Headmaster, Dr Phillip Moulds, believes
opportunities brought about through personal
relationships formed among boys and girls,
their parents and teachers are critical to
the success of his ‘country’ students.
“The opportunities we’re able to
present to students here because of
our staff and because of our physical
locations enable our students to perform
to the best of their individual and
collective abilities,” says Dr Moulds.
The School, for example, provides more
than 80 study and work experience options
to its Middle and Senior School students, as
well as a global education programme with
partner schools in the USA, UK, New Zealand
and Singapore. It supports nearly t wo dozen
sports, a rich and diverse music programme
and co -curricular activities that cater to
interests from Aviation to Photography.
Additionally students get frequent
hands-on experience at the School
farm, Ritamada (the beach-front outdoor
education facility at Emu Park) the pool,
the two sporting ovals and our theatre.
“Our strategies often focus on active, hand-
on learning opportunities in which students
explore and problem solve,” adds Dr Moulds.
Field trips and classroom visits by local
koalas and their carers, for example, have
contributed greatly to Preppies’ motivation
and ownership of their learning about
the environment. Middle School Marine
Biology students learn about the Great
Barrier Reef by actually going to the Reef.
Children too have hands-on learning with
the School’s own cat tle learning exactly
how to pregnancy test, for example.
Flinders Professor John Halsey describes
Rockhampton Grammar’s programmes
and services, as well as those of other
rural and regionally-based schools, as
essential, not only for the local community
but for the whole of Australia.
“Rural education, rural leadership,
working and living in rural communities
is leading-edge stuff. It ’s where we
need our best and brightest, our most
innovative, our most creative.”
Whilst good country schools like
Rockhampton Grammar, with strong ties to
communities and local families, are vital to the
health of and the general sense of optimism
parents and students have about the future,
Professor Halsey believes that they are crucial
to Australian and global sustainability.
“ Virtually without exception, it is in rural
places and spaces where most of the
world’s food is produced, energy is sourced,
minerals are extracted, water supplies
originate, and the natural environment is most
abundant... [T]hose who live and work there
need access to high qualit y education.”
High quality schools in non-metropolitan
locations across Australia, therefore,
enrich local communities in several
fundamental ways according to Dr Halsey.
Young people, for example, are a
critical human resource for re-building
and re-energising rural communities.
“The future of a rural town or community
is linked to the choices teenagers make —to
stay, to leave, or to return after moving
out to experience life elsewhere or to
complete education and training which
may not be available in the local area.”
[It’s] the connections that regional or country schools,
especially boarding schools, have among students,
teachers, the community and the land... [that] make a big
difference to students’ comfort and engagement levels.
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