Shortages of teachers in rural areas is nothing new. Infact, it has been a problem for more than a century, as teaching graduatesstruggle to deal with a range of issues, from isolation and unfamiliarity tolimited resources and distance from the city.
Fortunately, an independent review into regional, rural and remote education was commissioned by Education Minister Simon Birmingham inFebruary, with the final report expected by the end of the year.
This is a serious topic given how many students attendregional and remote schools, thus it’s important to identify why so manyteaching grads struggle to adapt to the country.
Why is this happening?
One of the main reasons for this predicament is thatteaching hopefuls see rural schools as a stop gap — finish their degree, spendone or two years in the role and then apply for a gig closer to the city, withexperience to bolster their CV. This is an understandable career trajectory,especially for those who grow up in a metropolitan environment, but it is vitalthat at least some proportion of teachers in regional areas are planning onbeing there for a while.
This is not a phenomenon limited to the educationprofession. The old notion of spending decades at a single company is a thingof the past in an economy where tools like Seek and LinkedIn allow full-timeworkers to constantly compare their current jobs with prospective ones.
Another factor is the lifestyle. The differences between thecountry and the city are obvious, and the availability of facilities such asgyms, entertainment complexes and shopping centres, as well as diverse diningand nightlife options, can make metropolitan schools a more attractiveproposition.
A lack of resources in remote schools might not be an issue initiallybut it can certainly become one over time. Schools with small budgets and alack of government assistance can be prone to lagging internet and outdatedtechnology, which can make it difficult for teachers to do their job to thebest of their ability.
What can be done?
There is no obvious answer that springs to mind that willsolve these various problems. Perhaps it includes financial incentives foryoung teachers who spend a certain number of years at a rural school, or mayberegional-centric personal development that could lead to more senior roles inother remote communities.
It is naïve to think there is some magical quick fix, butfor the sake of regional schools and students, hopefully inroads are madesooner rather than later.