Kathryn Hardwick-Franco ‘Rurality, rural education and rural education leadership’

I grew up believing clever people spoke Latin, played chess and achieved the PhD. I’m happy to say I am on track to achieve the last two milestones – I suspect Latin will continue to elude me. But I thought the PhD would be something for retirement; that I’d be too busy to take time out of family / life / career for the PhD. Thankfully, in 1992, I had a young, female supervisor for my Honours (First Class) who explained the pathway to PhD. Thankfully, in 2016, I was awarded an APA scholarship for the PhD. Thankfully Professor Tara Brabazon is my PhD supervisor. Thankfully I joined the Write [Right] Bunch – Tara’s online weekly writing community – for it keeps me connected to the PhD experience. Thankfully I engage online with female, intellectual, academic, intelligent, friendly, warm, personable, Flinders University PhD students. Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive family, husband and two daughters, who support my academic pursuits. Thankfully Tara’s weekly vlogs inspired and informed me about the PhD and about publishing my research during the PhD experience.

I could not achieve the PhD on my own.

I think my pathway to intellectual pursuits started when I was seven, as a student of the International Yamaha Music Foundation (IYMF). I remained with the IYMF for twelve years – the final four years were teacher training. This music-teacher-training is second to none. The clarity the IYMF experience gave me with respect to the complexities embedded within the pedagogies of music teaching, remains invaluable.

I am a school teacher with the South Australian education department (DfE) (1994-2020), on short-term contracts, teaching different age groups (reception to Year 12), different subjects (music, English, research, maths, science, history, geography, health, art, design and technology) and different syllabi. While working, I completed higher degrees. My study informed the work – the work informed my study. The more I studied, the easier became the job of teaching.

I studied for my own intellectual development. But also to ensure I had the higher degree qualifications, critical for a career move, should I find work at a university. Along the way I gained consultancy work with a non-government organisation (NGO), researching ways in which NGOs and DfE schools can work together to deliver music education in rural contexts.1 Up until then, my research had focused on ethnomusicology and the ways in which music and identity maintenance entwine, inclusive of migrants who reside in rural contexts (Master of Music).

In 1998 we moved to my husband’s rural hometown of Port Lincoln, a regional centre, in a remote part of South Australia. My husband and our two daughters were raised and educated in Port Lincoln. Since I left Adelaide I have taught in rural schools, worked in educational leadership roles with the DfE, worked with Natural Resource Management and volunteered in the arts, childrens’ sports, and supported a young person to host the 2019 #schoolstrikeforclimatechange. During these twenty-two years, it became apparent that rurality, living rural, rural education and rural educational leadership required deep consideration. I began the doctoral program with the view to investigating the role of the rural school principal, with the intent to understand the professional development they require, bespoke to rural schools and the rural contexts in which they live.

1 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2018d). Music education in remote rural South Australian schools: Does a partnership with a non-government organisation work? Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 28(1), p. 104-120

I aspire to be a rural school principal; at a school that values the arts and intellectual development of young people. Wherein the community is hungry to 1) grow capacity of all rural community members 2) grow rural industries in ways that are sensitive to the environment and indigenous knowledge systems 3) invest in learning about ways schools and rural industries can work together to develop business models that address the climate crisis

I questioned. How is it that we interrogate qualitative, quantitative, and anecdotal data highlighting rural life (e.g. health, education, access to transport and clean water) is different from [read less] when compared with non-rural life? Please note: I do not use the term ‘urban’. I advocate there is no urban-rural dichotomy. I argue binary conceptual models are antithetical to intellectual discourse. The world is complex. Let us embrace the need to find ways to articulate complexity with clarity.

I advocate rural is at the center. For where would non-rural people be, were it not for rurality? How would non-rural contexts benefit from bees, bio-diversity, cultural-diversity, eco-systems, economic-systems, food production and processing, energy production and dissemination, indigenous knowledge, mining, healthy soil systems, spiritual-systems, tourism, transport-systems, safe water – without rurality? In ‘revisioning theories of rurality’ (my PhD), little did I know I would become an ardent advocate for #climatechange and ardent critic of neoliberal capitalism. Please, I implore you – read the climate change science. Sigh. Just devastating. Australia must take the lead in this area and support our near neighbours; Australian pollution is devastating our planet and the lives of people around the world. The knowledge I gained led me to become a member of the Greens party. I have never looked to engage in politics and a political career. But the #climatecrisis transcends my fear of political affiliation. I needed to act.

I was delighted when my blog, ‘meta-impact,’ was published by Emerald2. I invited climate scientists to join me in my research about rural educational leadership. A lack of uptake saw me alter my research. It had to become my role, to enfold the devastating impact of #climatechange on rurality, into my research about the role of rural educational leaders. My PhD highlights the importance of supporting rural school principals to support school staff, students, and community, to engage in learning about ways to address the impacts of climate change and neoliberal constructs in rural contexts.

2 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2018, January 18). Integrating Real World Impacts to enact meta-Real World Impact. [Online blog publication]. Retrieved from https://www.emeraldpublishing.com/news-and-blogs/integrating-real-world-impacts-to-enact-meta-real-world-impact/

I pause to reflect. I understand how to undertake study and research while in rural contexts, what the fully online rural student requires, what it is to teach – in person and online – in rural contexts. I have engaged in digital online learning and research since 1998 to achieve: the PhD, the Master of Music (Ethnomusicology), Master of Education (Leadership and Management), Advanced Diploma in Community Development, Diploma in Community Services (Volunteer Management), Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. I have experience and expertise.

I did not expect, that during the PhD I would create theories of education: the theory of cultural-educational leadership,3 the theory of palette educational leadership4 and the theory of rural educational leadership (PhD). I did not expect to publish, let alone be cited. I am thrilled my research has been cited in languages other than English.

I reflect. I have become an expert on rural education – as a student, teacher, researcher, and educational leader. This was confirmed for me through publication of my research, before I was half way through the doctorate, inclusive of an article in an A1 journal, the International Journal of Leadership in Education.5 My expertise in the area of rural educational leadership was confirmed when the Executive Director for Education of the OECD authorised the citation of my research in what the OECD claim to be the first report with a global perspective on rural education Learning in rural schools: insights from PISA, TALIS and the literature. OECD Education Working Paper No. 196.6 My name is in the paragraphs with the leaders in the field, in the section that focusses on rural educational leadership. What a coup! How proud am I? Also published, is my research that links education with the United Nations sustainability development goals.

I aspire to work as a researcher with global NGOs in the area of rural education.

While we live in anti-intellectual times, my hope is, that the current multiple global crises’ will create a future that nurtures thinkers and adequately funds universities. Further, I advocate rural contexts must have university shop-fronts, to inspire rural community members to aspire to university learning and research life-pathways.

I aspire to take a lead role in managing university campuses that are located in rural, remote, very remote contexts. People in rural contexts deserve the privilege that is to engage in tertiary education, higher degrees by research, research posts and university teaching roles, while remaining in rural contexts.

3 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2018, October 25). Cultural Educational Leadership. [YouTube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMxoydRJ7vs 4 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2018e). Rural school principals: Professional development and getting the 3Rs correct [online]. AQ – Australian Quarterly, 89(3), p. 21-27. jstor.org/stable/26529668 5 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2019a). Educational leadership is different in the country; what support does the rural school Principal need? International Journal of Leadership in Education, 22(3), p. 301-314. DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2018.1450997 6 Echazarra, A. & Radinger, T. (2019). Learning in rural schools: insights from PISA, TALIS and the literature. OECD Education Working Paper No. 196. Paris: OECD. DOI: 10.1787/8b1a5cb9-en 7 Hardwick-Franco, K. (2018a). Flexible education in Australia: A reflection from the perspective of the UN’S sustainability development goals. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 8(3), p. 259-273. DOI: 10.1108/HESWBL-02-2018-0019

As I await the results of the examination of my PhD, I remain buoyed. The movement to online learning harks well for access to tertiary education for rural people. And while in COVID-19 lock down, I practice chess, practice strategic thinking, and plan my next [career] move. Any offers?

#RuralMatters #RuralEducationMatters #RuralEducationalLeadershipMatters #RuralResearchMatters #InspireToAspire

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