Geography isn’t destiny.
I disagree with the phrase that geography is destiny, in the sense that where you’re born will determine the kind of life you’ll live. I pick issue with this ideology because, whilst immediate surroundings can indeed affect the kinds of education, interactions and influences one may receive, opportunities are not limited to geography alone. Nonetheless, I advocate that human development occurs at its fullest potential when one has equal access to funds and resources. It’s hard to ignore the reality that year 12 rural participation rates, (not to mention the graduation rates – which mind you, I could count from my school’s year level on one hand) are at an all-time low.
Having grown up in a rural community myself, I experienced isolation first-hand living far from a hub of civilization, in a relatively economically depressed area and lacking the best education opportunities available. The sad reality is that students who attend rural educational institutions are exposed to a higher number of teacher shortages, tedious transportation journeys (up to 2 hours) and an education that measures far below the standard of their city-dwelling peers. Whilst the severity of these factors may appear minimal during a student’s primary schooling years, collectively they have a detrimental impact on one’s high schooling career (particularly during senior years). For myself, I experienced the sudden shock of this realisation when I enrolled into SACE in year 11. I found that approximately 60% of the electives I had chosen to study were only available through open-access online learning (presumably because they didn’t align with the typical agricultural culture).
My school was understaffed, underfunded and heavily under resourced, and those who paid the ultimate price were the students. To provide some insight, my year 12 Society & Culture teacher was also my Physical Education and Design & Technology teacher. My year 12 English teacher was also my Psychology teacher and in-house counsellor. Basically, if there were enough numbers to teach a subject (5-10 or more); the subject was taught by someone who learnt alongside us (not ideal when you’re competing against a whole Nation for that perfect ATAR huh).
Now, you’d think that the connectivity available through technology in the current age, such as open-access online learning, should mean that students can learn at a similar rate of their urban peers. In fact, it only made the educational gap feel more distant than ever. Electing not to sit in a room by myself on skype to a city-based teacher and classroom that I’d not (and would never) meet before, I was forced to study a less relevant curriculum – one that proved no benefit or relevance to the career path I’m now pursuing. For the majority of my cohort, this led to lack of interest, lack of attendance and inevitably lower levels of employment attainment.
Students residing in rural areas ultimately face increased vulnerability in transitioning from school to further tertiary education and work. I found myself not knowing how to use a metro system, lacking community support and feeling in a more marginalised position after having left high school. This led me to seriously consider dropping out of my degrees and resorting back to the familiarity of my rural surroundings. My teachers had never prepared me for life beyond high school (probably because they don’t expect most to progress past that point anyway). Nonetheless, I persevered and completed my desired double-degree, having recently just obtaining full-time employment. For my fellow cohort however, I can’t say they’ve been as fortunate.