I never considered myself to be someone who stumbles on moving forward. I generally see myself as focused, driven, confident and committed. However when it comes to publishing my opinion and collecting my thoughts in preparation for my research proposal (Punch 2016) I am almost frozen with fear and my mind is a bowl of spaghetti. To believe I can and will put the words together to gain Confirmation of my research feels at this point, oceans away. In the next three days, I have to consolidate my ideas, reflections and formulate a reasoned and logically organised draft proposal. It has been a year of stops and starts, waves of change at all levels, community complexities of catastrophic proportion, and at the school level, tragic events that have rewritten many of our young peoples view of the world forever. Uncertainty is our daily bread.
How do you say that word.. Philanthropic?
January 4th 2020, the world is aghast by the scenes of the catastrophic bushfires devastating our community, families losing their homes, nature destroyed and hundreds of sad sinking hearts. The questions are already flying at me. What are we going to do for the kids? In response, my school community rallies, realising that recovery is much more than books and laptops, it is about rebuilding hearts and minds. We know we need firstly the ‘things’, then the human support setting the goals of hope and followed by creating the space, of time and place. The sanctuary – ‘Djama-nj Project = We speak’ came out of the question ‘how do we leverage the best support for our students’.
Our school needed a bridge to enable this vision. Immediately I contacted Australian Schools Plus, based on some previous experience in the benefits of philanthropic support for my school and knew that the patterns of practice, innovation and the flexibility of philanthropic partnerships had the means to gather support for our community led project. I knew the research. The Independent review into Regional Rural and Remote Education (Halsey 2017) recommends the encouragement of the philanthropic sector to play a greater role in raising achievements and improving opportunities for RRR students for a number of reasons. One of which is the flexibility of philanthropic non-gov organisations, removed from the barriers, often the mark of educational policy with unintended negative outcomes on schools (Schafft 2016).
My story highlights a partnership and raises the question. Is there some way to rationalise the aspects of philanthropic endeavours to increase a regional school and school leader in NSW to successfully leverage student motivation, interest, and sense of belonging? Students who are motivated to succeed have high expectations for the future, and a strong sense of belonging at school tend to have better academic outcomes (Jon Douglas Willms, 2003). It is therefore vitally important that parents, educators and system leaders understand and act on these aspects of student wellbeing (OECD & Ministry of Education, 2015). Can the focus on improving outcomes for Regional and Rural students be empowered by educational philanthropy?
I am curious to find out why Halsey (2018) highlighted Philanthropy as a source to be leveraged, why ? For what outcome? What type of schools? What type of community? Who are the principals and why do some engage and some do not? My research, as a practicing rural principal of a large secondary school seeks to understand and develop principles for philanthropic projects/processes/influence that can be leveraged systemically to improve outcomes for Rural and Remote students. This will be a journey through a deep dive into case studies to find the stories and the narratives that will reveal and endeavour to rationalise the aspects of philanthropic endeavours that increase a rural school and rural school leaders ability leverage student motivation, interest, and sense of belonging.
Narrowing the focus.
One would wonder will the contextual levels have more or less impact? What level, if any is more important. Put simply, the contextual levels of the community, school and individual student. The project would identify/collect data on intended outcomes of school projects for individual students, which include learning dispositions, student perception and cognitive targets. This would be viewed through the lens of Relationships of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system’s theory. The circles of contextual engagement at the levels of – Individual (micro), School (Meso) and Community/Society (Macro).
Does the contextual levels have more or less impact on the successful perception of the philanthropic impact? What level, if any is more important. At the individual level what does the individual student brings to the context? Is context important? School – Leadership, project/program, culture leveraged by philanthropy? Is location important? These questions will be asked and evidence collected to understand the contextual levels and impact that aims to understand the principles of educational philanthropic projects/processes/influence that will improve outcomes for Rural and Remote students.
Equity no easy fix.
Successive Australian governments, both federal and state have commissioned reports and research that attempt to rationalise the inequities and forge recommendations for the education of Australian young people, no matter where they live (Halsey, 2018; Kenway, 2013; Mazurski et al., 2016a). The Gonski Review’s core recommendation was to ensure a funding system based on need; SES background, disability, English language proficiency, Indigeneity, and school size and location (Harrington, 2013). Despite the well-intentioned strategies presented by, NSW Government (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2013), Smarter Schools National Partnership (Huo & Lamb, 2016) there has been no significant improvement in the educational outcomes for Rural and Remote students, despite significant funding increases in Australia and indeed New South Wales (Mazurski et al., 2016a).
I prefer to look for answers in thinkers who understand that we have an unevenly distributed education system which needs to be addressed (Sahlberg 2019) . Philanthropy may be one answer to address a need that can no longer be ignored. We need governments, business and communities to come together to work together to solve this deepening chasm. As stated clearly in the 2019 Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration GOAL 1. The Australian education system promotes excellence and equity.
So the proposal begins….
Punch, K. (2016). Developing effective research proposals (3rd edition.). SAGE.
Australian Schools Plus. https://www.schoolsplus.org.au/
Kai A. Schafft (2016) Rural Education As Rural Development: Understanding the Rural School–Community Well-Being Linkage in a 21st-Century Policy Context, Peabody Journal of Education, 91:2, 137-154, DOI: 10.1080/0161956X.2016.1151734
Halsey, J. (2019). Rural and remote education and the fundamentals of leading for all. Australian Educational Leader, 41(4)
Council, E. (2019). Alice springs (Mparntwe) education declaration. Education Services Australia.
Kenway, J. (2013). Challenging inequality in Australian schools: Gonski and beyond. Discourse, 34(2), 286–308. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2013.770254
Mazurski, E., Finn, J., Goodall, A., & Wan, W.-Y. (2016). The Rural and Remote Education Blueprint Interim monitoring and evaluation report. In Centre for Educational Statistic and Evaluation (Issue December). https://doi.org/10.9783/9780812295238-002
Allen, J. M., Wright, S., Cranston, N., Watson, J., Beswick, K., & Hay, I. (2018). Raising levels of school student engagement and retention in rural, regional and disadvantaged areas: is it a lost cause? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(4), 409–425. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2017.1370737
Huo, S., & Lamb, S. (2016). Effective Strategies for Improving Student Learning: Results from the Low SES NP Evaluation. https://www.cese.nsw.gov.au/images/stories/PDF/Eval_Rep/Strategy_Evaluation_CESE/LowSES_Strategies_improving_learning.pdfhttps://www.cese.nsw.gov.au/images/stories/PDF/Low_SES_NP_projectreport_NSW.pdf