Professor John Halsey, the newly announced winner of the SA branch of the Australian College of Educational Leadership’s top award, has called for entrepreneurial education to become a priority in rural schools.
Accepting the 2016 Alby Jones ACEL SA Fellowship Award, Professor Halsey of Flinders University’s School of Education said one of the most effective ways to address the issue of declining employment opportunities and youth exodus in rural communities would be to create a system of Primary Industries Entrepreneurial Schools.
Professor Halsey said there are more than a million students in rural schools in Australia
“There is an urgent need – and opportunity – to harness the potential of the students who live in rural areas, which are the source of most of our food, energy and minerals and where the natural environment is most abundant,” Professor Halsey said.
“We have to shift the focus of schooling to prepare rural student to be creators of jobs and careers and sustainers of healthy communities.
“We often talk of value-adding in terms of products, but the greatest resource in our rural communities is our young people. Education – and entrepreneurial education specifically – is the key to reinvigorating rural communities and their economies.”
Professor Halsey cited Cowell Area School and its close involvement with the local aquaculture industry as an example of the principle already in practice.
He says it is vital that country areas are kept in mind when resources are allocated.
Speaking of a recent announcement of a new visual art centre in Adelaide, Professor Halsey said: ‘If there is $250 million available for building another art facility, imagine the benefits that could flow to rural and regional communities if instead of one new metropolitan centre, four or five at $40 to 50m each were built around the State’.
The Alby Jones award, which commemorates the innovative SA Director General of Education who died in 2003, recognises Professor Halsey’s long-standing advocacy and activities directed to improving rural education.
Among other achievements, Professor Halsey has been instrumental in establishing a postgraduate course at Flinders dedicated to provide specialised skills and capacity for rural education leaders, as well setting up funding for teaching students to undertake practicums in rural schools.
Professor Halsey, who said he was ‘surprised, but very pleased and honoured’ to win the award, said he shared with the late Alby Jones a commitment to the ideal that access to high quality education is a right regardless of circumstance.