'Don't open the rabbit's eyes too fast': a study of education in regional Western Australia, 1888 to 1930

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[Truncated abstract] The poor quality of government regional education in Western Australia has been part of an ongoing discourse between town and country since the early 1900s. Traditionally, regional educational history was written as a redress of provisional inequality, the assumption being that distance and an inappropriate town-based curriculum were key factors in regional educational deficiency. This study takes a different view, investigating the relationship between government economic development policy and the growth of government education from the regional perspective. Using four regional case studies, the research describes and analyses the development of government education in and around the southwest communities of Albany, Bunbury, Collie and Narrogin. It was found that between 1888 and 1930 successive Western Australian governments tailored education to prepare and keep, in Premier Forrest’s words, a ‘peasant class’ population on the land. They did this by introducing differentiated town and country curricula; providing the lowest level of educational provision in terms of buildings, staffing and resources in regional areas, and by structuring the government education system in a centralised bestto- worst model. These strategies were part of a broader translation of nineteenth century English class-consciousness into Western Australian society. Regardless of their political persuasion, the State’s political leaders refused to extend higher education to students in agricultural regions. That policy changed only when it seemed that it would be the best way of encouraging large numbers of regional residents to remain in the regions. Regional students, however, continued to receive modified, poorly-funded, evening continuation and technical classes, which provided neither a sound vocational education nor one that articulated with a university education...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2011


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