CONCERN: Many regional children are at risk of being left behind due to the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

CONCERN: Many regional children are at risk of being left behind due to the changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus - we can't leave regional kids behind

Coronavirus - we can't leave regional kids behind

Community
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It's much too important for the future of the regions.

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COVID-19 has changed almost everything with know. It's forced us to change the way we live; change the way we work and change the way our kids are educated.

Working remotely is now commonplace for most - regardless of where you live.

It's a situation no-one could have imagined or predicted. We are all trying to find the new the "new normal", in a world where disruption is so prevalent.

At the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) we pride ourselves on knowing what is happening in regional Australia.

Our network is made up of many and our reach is extremely wide.

But over the last few weeks, we have had to reposition our work to manage our way through the changes imposed on all of us.

Face-to-face meetings have had to stop. Our events have been postponed. The way we interact with government has changed enormously. Our team have modified their working hours to include home schooling and supervision.

It's an unenviable task that is placing enormous pressure on families and I know many of your reading this will agree.

And while the Regional Australia Institute, many other businesses and families will work through the many challenges we are all facing during this crisis, what concerns us is that our regional kids are facing bigger obstacles than most.

But what if you don't have a computer? What if you don't have internet? How are these kids getting on with their studies? The world is online. Kids are learning how to learn online. But it seems a large sector of regional kids are not.

Over the last few weeks, thousands of kids have started to hit the books at home - as classes have been moved out of school buildings and into our homes across the country.

For many kids, this means talking to their teacher and classmates on a computer screen.

Completed work might be emailed back in to the teacher or saved on a student portal.

But what if you don't have a computer? What if you don't have internet? How are these kids getting on with their studies?

The world is online. Kids are learning how to learn online. But it seems a large sector of regional kids are not.

At Warialda Public School, in northern NSW, parents were surveyed about their IT facilities at home. Almost 40 per cent said no to having a computer at home. For those that did, half of them said internet wasn't reliable.

In Victoria, principal of Edenhope College, Jon Neall, said that one in four of his students could not access the internet at home - highlighting the gaps in education opportunities in regional Australia.

We know that kids in regional Australia are already behind when it comes to education. They are still twice as likely (28 per cent) to leave school before year 12 compared to students in metropolitan areas (14 per cent).

Last year, former Victorian Premier Denis Napthine released his report which looked into the engagement and outcomes of post-school education for young people from rural, regional and remote Australia. The report shows that the current system is going backwards for our regional kids.

The federal government has broadly accepted the committee's seven main recommendations and we encourage work in this space.

But that report didn't take into account the impact a global pandemic would have on our education system, and what this means for regional students. How could it have?

At this stage, it looks like most of our students will spend term two at home.

At the Regional Australia Institute, we are engaging with government, industry and regional stakeholders to see how we can get regional students online.

We'd love to hear from you about your regional education story and how lessons are being delivered at home.

To contact us, email info@regionalaustralia.org.au

The next few weeks and months will be filled with much uncertainty.

But we can't leave our regional kids behind when it comes their education.

It's much too important for the future of the regions.

Liz Ritchie is chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute

The story Coronavirus - we can't leave regional kids behind first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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