Following the release of the latest NAPLAN report, which saw big gains Indigenous students, the Federal Government highlighted its policy to promote school attendance in remote communities.
However, an expert on large-scale tests like NAPLAN says that long-term planning in education requires more than getting students to school.
Associate Professor Jihyun Lee of UNSW Sydney said while it is possible that boosting school attendance in remote communities has a role to play, education policies need to look beyond getting children into school buildings and consider the full range of community infrastructure that facilitates learning in the long-term.
“The government investment of $5m on projects that support and promote school attendance in remote and very remote areas has been re-emphasised in the wake of the 2018 NAPLAN national report,” Dr Lee said.
The Federal Government’s funding plan is tied to the Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) that commenced in 2014, which has a particular focus on school attendance by Indigenous students.
Dr Lee said that while the aim of the plan is to improve school attendance through employment of local School Attendance Supervisors and School Attendance Officers to work in local communities, it may not be a sustainable solution in the long-term.
“The government strategy is focused on human resources while other countries appear to invest more in educational infrastructure for the future generations,” she said.
Dr Lee said there is much that Australian education policy makers can learn from looking abroad. In particular, she points to the role that the Internet plays in providing young people with access to knowledge.
“The reality is that young students in developed countries learn a lot from a wealth of educational resources available on the Internet,” she said.
“Australia’s Internet connection speed was ranked 50th out of 148 countries, with Korea, Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, and United State in the top 10.”
Dr Lee said Australia needs to think about what students in remote and very remote areas will do if they face obstacles to attending school.
“We also need to admit that much of crucial learning occurs outside of school,” she said.
“While the short-term plan of bringing students to school may be beneficial, future-oriented strategies and investments should be a priority.”