Providing Post-Compulsory Education Options through 'New-Look' Rural Partnerships

By Mlcek, Susan | Rural Society, August 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Providing Post-Compulsory Education Options through 'New-Look' Rural Partnerships


Mlcek, Susan, Rural Society


Personal story

The following personal account of my initial experience with the TAFE/CSU partnership may at first appear to be a travelogue of events but in a way the travel details present as a metaphor to illustrate complex layers of operations, logistics, resourcing and pedagogical practice.

In 2004, when based at the Wagga Wagga Campus of Charles Sturt University (CSU), I used to drive weekly in the first semester between that campus and the one 'out there' (some 300 km away) at Dubbo, to teach a core communication subject in the Bachelor of Social Work degree program. That is, 'out there' in Dubbo seemed even more remote than the Wagga campus. Yet the distance was just over 4 h between the two sites, Wagga and Dubbo. To drive to Dubbo from where I lived in the Blue Mountains near Western Sydney was actually closer by one hour than driving from Wagga Wagga. This was a significant factor for me. It also raises some interesting consequences for trying to deliver accessible and equitable educational opportunities to remote communities. If I could drive straight to Dubbo from my home in the lesser time, I felt that was a much neater process than going 'around the world' following the Wagga-Dubbo-Wagga-Blue Mountains route.

Operating within competing mindsets about the tyranny of travel and access-to-education for all was significant at that time because, on several levels, the newness of the situation created some relevant debates among our human services discipline group about who should go, why, when and for how long. Trying to achieve the 'neater process' as indicated above was an ongoing travel requisition 'nightmare', not just for me but for administrative staff as well I am sure. I would arrive in Dubbo on the Wednesday, stay overnight and then teach a threehour lecture/workshop to 25 eager learners who were part of the first cohort of students ever to access a unique TAFE program of vocational studies alongside a university program. This was definitely 'parallel learning' in action. I would then drive back to Wagga Wagga or head the other way back to my home.

At this time, I was undergoing a 'sea-change' of my own, amenable to working and living between three different locations. But this way of working was not, and is not, for everyone. I had a vested interest in wanting to contribute to the success of the degree program in Dubbo, having a passionate focus for providing learning opportunities to marginalised and isolated communities, including to Indigenous people for whom I felt the university and our own social work degree program could accommodate through better and more meaningful ways. In addition, I had also co-written the communication subject so I wanted to ensure that it was delivered in the way I envisaged it should be. For me at the time, however, it was clear to see that competency-based post-compulsory education programs had well and truly addressed the evolving conceptual and policy trends of the changing patterns of participation in further education and training, and that the university sector was being compelled to sit up and take notice.

Introduction

Within the post-compulsory education and training sector, there remain enormous challenges that demand multi-disciplinary approaches, agile responses to change and new strategic alliances among relevant players in the community, private and government sectors (Skills Australia, 2009). The transforming world not only brings serious changes and challenges, but it also carries new opportunities, for example in terms of appropriate educational modelling to meet the needs of diverse rural populations as well as market demands (Falk, 2001). Indeed, the market mechanism and value of efficiency have become major driving forces in our society today; they determine the future of work and the work of the future (Owen & Bound, 2001) and permeate even the different education sectors such as vocational education and training and higher education (Marginson, 2000). …

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