Place, Rural Education and Social Justice: A Study of Rural Teaching and Curriculum Politics: Doctorial Thesis

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Through the use of a rural standpoint, this dissertation offers new insights into how rural educational disadvantage is socially, and spatially, produced in rural areas of New South Wales, Australia. It argues that the rural is often positioned on the periphery of mainstream, normative educational research and compared to an imaginary metropolitan norm. This positioning does not allow rural meanings to be explored or the rural to be considered in its own terms. Along with notions of curricular justice and spatial justice, the ideas of 'place' and 'rural social space' (Reid et al., 2010) are applied to a consideration of social justice and curriculum, arriving at a position of curricular-spatial justice that informs a renewed turn to curriculum negotiation. Curricular-spatial justice suggests that approaches beyond distributive, recognitional and associational justice are needed to reposition the rural in educational policy and research. In exploring place, social justice, curriculum and rural teaching in a manner that allows rural meanings to be at the forefront, a new perspective in research has been necessary. The resultant 'rural standpoint', a perspective that works in, for and with the rural to value rural people and communities and the knowledges produced therein, enables this. Methodologically the rural standpoint is operationalized in this study in the approach of 'strategic eclecticism', an approach drawing from mixed-method research. The argument is made in four stages. First, a range of publicly available secondary data is used to look at rural educational achievement and equity from a perspective that raises important questions about the appropriateness of the dominant distributive approach to equity funding. The concept of a rural standpoint is then developed through a reflexive re-reading and reanalysis of an earlier report by the author, highlighting the importance of researcher perspective in research conclusions. The study then moves to a consideration of how teachers engage with place and the role of curriculum in rural areas, before a historical analysis of equity policy related to curriculum is presented. This reveals the dominant perspective of curriculum neutrality and centralised distributive assumptions of equity policy. Finally, a spatial analysis of curriculum access and achievement data reveals the problem that needs to be re-framed as the existence of high-status subjects and highlights the existence of a metropolitan-cosmopolitan knowledge hierarchy in which student access and success is mediated by school location.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages377
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Aug 2016


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