Education get shunted back

24 Mar, 2004 10:00 PM
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POLITICIANS are more concerned with mobile phone coverage than access to education, according to federal president of the Isolated Children¹s Parents¹ Association Jack Beach.

³Telstra claim their terrestrial mobile service covers 97.5pc of the population, but 5pc of the Australian population still do not have daily access to secondary schooling,² he said.

³Where do our priorities lie?

³State and Federal governments have an obligation to offer appropriate education to all Australian children ­ no taxpayer would begrudge an education that is affordable.²

A fourth generation grazier from north of Conclurry in Queensland, Jack believes that education is the key to sustainable rural communities.

³Every country family¹s shift to an urban centre can be traced back to education,² Jack said.

He believes society does not properly assess the impact of one family¹s departure from a rural centre.

³If you forget the raw economics associated with the loss of that family and consider the broader picture, then a Community Ecology Impact Assessment would give us some indication of that family unit¹s contribution to sporting groups, local voluntary services such as ambulance and fire and rescue as well as the local school,² Jack said.

He said the government had obligations to the Australian taxpayer and where the cost of delivering education becomes prohibitive, country people needed an affordable option.

He supported the concept of bypassing - already up and running in Queensland - which gave students a greater choice of high schools and the necessary financial assistance to make that choice possible.

Jack is lobbying hard for increased educational allowances paid to rural and remote students.

³Average boarding school fees are about $15,000 per annum but the allowance is $4400,² he said.

³With few people in this category, doubling the allowance would not make a huge dent in the budget.

³Home tutors receive only a $1500 allowance for incidentals which is a pretty poor acknowledgement of their efforts.

³Rural Australia has probably been too resilient in the past.²

On the issue of telecommunications, Jack was not convinced that the Federal Government had control of Telstra.

³And they are unlikely to have effective control of privatised telecommunications that would ensure remote and rural Australia has access that is affordable,² he said.

³There is no legislation to protect or maintain data services other than standard telephone services under the universal service obligation.

³There is no guarantee with satellite and wireless services.²

Jack said the bureaucratic hype suggested rural communities had access to high speed data via satellite and broadband services and the curriculum writers were assuming that was the case.

³They are progressing at a fantastic rate but the perception of connectivity and confidence of the infrastructure has been vastly misread and talked up,² he said.

³A communication breakdown when a child is relying on the system for education is a different matter to someone missing a sporting match on TV.²

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