Flicking through The Age newspaper on Monday, a headline caught my eye: Going the distance. The article, part of an education supplement, celebrated the fact that “for 100 years, long-distance learning has helped Victorian students who can’t get to regular schools”.
Putting aside the ‘long-distance learning’ description (does this mean that there is ‘short-distance learning’?), this is indeed something to celebrate. The Distance Education Centre (DEC) was “set up in 1909 to provide training for young teachers in remote areas …”. This built on the experience of a pioneer, Mabel Prewett, who “wrote to the college [Melbourne Teachers College] asking for urgent help to educate two of her nine children … six trainee teachers volunteered to handwrite and post sets of lessons, which arrived by horse and buggy every fortnight.”
Yes, the DEC has for a century, as the article reveals, not only educated children in remote communities and those of families who are travelling, but also provided a learning environment for well-known actors, sportspersons, sailors, dancers and … my daughter.
How did this come about? A decade or so ago, as parents we proudly watched our daughter go off on scholarship to university, to undertake a combined Law/Science degree. However, after about a month she moved out of college, finding life there unbearable, and another month or so later withdrew from her studies completely, explaining that it was just not what she wanted to do.
She’d changed her mind and wanted to do medicine. However, a prerequisite was Mathematics, a subject she hadn’t studied for her Victorian Certificate of Education. The solution? Study maths via the DEC, while she worked as a shop assistant (in Myer, a detail provided for Australian readers) and saw out the year selling stockings before she could apply for her newly-chosen programme of study.
As a science graduate (in maths) and her father, did I help with her assignments? Of course! She’d fax them to Hong Kong where we were living (having made at least some attempt), and I’d fill in the missing bits. But of course she still had to face and pass the examination, a requirement duly fulfilled.
And did she get into medicine? Yes, so thank you, DEC, for playing a part in fulfilling my daughter’s ambitions!