Rural education practice and policy in marginalised communities:Teaching and learning on the edge
In this paper I focus on the problems that face (teacher) education policy and practice in meeting the challenge of ‘persistent and entrenched locational disadvantage’ in marginal communities. In Dropping off the Edge 2015, Tony Vinson and colleagues (2015) clearly demonstrate that complex and entrenched disadvantage has continued to characterise a number of Australian communities, with few signs of improvement in the past 15 years. A very high proportion of these disadvantaged localities are in rural areas, and they pose an enormous challenge to policy makers and service providers, as well as to the people who live in the communities themselves. In such contexts, education is both crucially important and inexorably difficult. Agreeing with Vinson, Rawshtorne, Beavis and Ericson, that we need to understand locational disadvantage as a wicked problem for a social equity agenda (2015), I argue that the concept of Rural Social Space (Reid et al., 2010) provides a useful and coherent theoretical resource for understanding and addressing this problem, and rethinking the idea of community in ways that are necessary for change to occur. Using an exemplary case of one locality identified by Vinson as threatened with ‘dropping off the edge’, I examine what a wicked problem looks like for social equity in this particular rural social space, and how it calls into question some of our most cherished assumptions about rural communities and rural schooling. The example allows consideration of the kind of policy and practice responses that may be necessary if the problem of educational disadvantage in rural locations is to be adequately addressed.
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