Students need support

Getting a good education is not as simple as kids turning up each day and doing as they’re told.

Any such simplistic notions were dispelled many years ago and yet finding the right way to maximise students’ learning potential is often out-of-reach.

The columns in this newspaper and the stories run on The Border Mail’s website regularly extol the achievements – both of students and of the passionate educators who find innovative, exciting ways to teach.

And so clearly there is a lot out there that is right.

But it also is no surprise that for many, going to school is anything but a positive experience.

What is especially concerning is that according to one leading educator, this is something that becomes far more common the further you travel from the big cities. Professor John Halsey has told a forum at the rural, regional and remote education inquiry in Wodonga how students’ results simply get worse as you make your way out of the big smoke.

He made the point that “critical issues” such as education had to be more effectively targeted in the regions, noting how there was “some absolutely fabulous stuff our there” but that overall the level of achievement was “patchy”.

A lot of that, not surprisingly, comes down to disadvantage and poverty, he says.

Albury High School principal Darryl Ward is only too aware of this fact, noting how such disadvantage as well as mental health and social issues are regular roadblocks that have to be negotiated in order to help some students. His view is that there needs to be an improvement in support from health agencies, especially given that schools so often are at the front-line when it comes to dealing with these difficult issues.

“Education is not always the answer to everything,” he says, emphasising how there “there needs to be a whole of community response”. It is important to take note of his observation that this does not always occur.

Education will always present enormous challenges and it is true to say there is no panacea to the things that don’t work.

But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to give up on finding those things that do, which – it is heartening to see – is clearly the focus for some of our leading educators.

By continuing this approach we are sure to see more students reach their potential and, in so doing, create more vibrant rural and regional communities.