14 SES 01 C JS, Rural Schools, Communities and Cultures
Joint Paper Session NW 14 and NW19
Variability when it comes to educational performance, trajectories and outcomes are well documented. In Norway the variability are particularly evident between the rural areas in the North compared to other regions. Research within the field ‘geography of education' point out the importance of studying the relationship between social and spatial variations in educational provision and attainment, but this research has mainly focused on the spatial segregation of different social groups in urban settings. Even though an urban/rural categorization makes up for a lot of the variation in educational performance, there has been limited research on how geography influences on youth and education in rural settings.
Youth research in general has been criticized for an unacknowledged “metrocentricity”, of being based on theories where urban settings are seen as ubiquitous and taken as emblematic of youth as such. According to the critics, the marginalisation of the day-to-day realities of young people outside the urban metropolis, goes hand in hand with ignoring the role of place and spatial processes in young peoples lives (Cuevo & Wynn 2012, Farrugia 2013). In response, new interdisciplinary approaches have emerged, re-theorising the role of place and space in youth studies, particularly studies of rural youth (Farrugia, Smyth & Harrison 2014, Rye 2015). This paper is based on an interdisciplinary theoretical approach, in order to analyse the relationship between place and spatial dimensions of education and work among young people in rural places. By combining a geographical approach with theories of social learning, the paper will discuss how important changes influence choices, and lack thereof, in specific rural communities.
The context of study is young people, particularly young men living in small places in the Barents Region, the northern part of Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. In contrast to large-scale quantitative analyses of rural depopulation, the aim of this paper is to explore important aspects of the small-scale processes of social learning among young men living in different rural communities.
At a theoretical and conceptual level, I will discuss how place and practice constitutes basic context for learning. Sociocultural theories emphasise the importance practice and participation in various communities of practice for learning, both within educational settings and as an integral part of everyday life (Wenger 2008). This approach corresponds with theories of place that treat practice and context as inseparable phenomena (Simonsen 2005). Place of residence constitutes a basic context for construction of identity, for knowledge development and social action. I relate the discussion to Bourdieus concept ‘habitus’ (1989), behaviours and attitudes learned in particular places expressed through language and lifestyle, as embodied knowledge structuring choices and actions.
Place of residence is central to the development of habitus, as possibilities for learning are embedded in different forms of practices, languages and ways of life. Taking such a perspective implies that place is not analysed as a background for social life, but as influencing and contributing to the construction of social life (Gieryn 2000; Massey 2005; Woodman & Wyn 2015). This approach makes it possible to analyse how place plays an active part in the construction of difference in young people’s lives. The overall aim of the paper is to demonstrate how place and geography represent changeable and contingent conditions in order to examine the way young people respond to important changes in the world of education and work.
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