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Closing education divide

Monday, 2nd May, 2011

The NSW Government says it has already begun work to close the education divide between rural and urban students as part of its election commitment.

Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said an agreement struck between State, Territory and Commonwealth education ministers last month was an important first step towards addressing the problem.

"There is a growing body of evidence that the educational divide between rural kids and city kids is not only growing but becoming entrenched," Mr Piccoli said.

"This commitment also shows that NSW is serious about closing the gap, and we will work cooperatively with other States, Territories and the Commonwealth to achieve this goal."

Minister Piccoli, who is also deputy leader of the NSW Nationals, said the decision would ensure the needs of rural and regional Australia are considered as a strategic priority in the national education agenda.

For example, he said, reviews of school funding will need to consider the costs of schooling outside of the cities, while initiatives to boost teacher quality will need to address the specific needs of those schools in more remote areas that struggle to attract and retain staff.

Also, in meeting the 90 per cent attainment target of Year 12 or equivalent, governments will need to consider more options to enable rural students to complete their studies.

"Our national tests show us that in Year 3 reading, one in 20 city students are below the minimum standard - compared to one in seven remote students, and almost every second very remote student," Mr Piccoli said.

"According to OECD PISA1 results children in rural schools are now one and a half years behind city students."

As a nation, Australia ranks ninth in reading, while Australia's remote students rank fortieth, between Turkey and Lithuania.

"Action to close the rural/urban divide must be a priority for all Australian governments. Australia will not be able to compete internationally if we leave our rural students behind," Mr Piccoli said.

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