14 SES 02 A, Rural Schools and Communities: Contributions from Norway, Italy and Iceland
The Nordic welfare state model is a well-established construct, with the Nordic countries’ common characteristic of representing a social-democratic project of providing universal welfare, independent of individuals’ backgrounds and resources (Esping-Andersen, 1985, 1996). In this universal welfare system education plays a key role, and the existence of a Nordic model in education has been put forward (Telhaug, Mediås & Asen, 2006), with education regarded as an essential tool for promoting processes leading to democratization and social equity. There are, however, developments and tendencies that challenge such a notion, and research continuously show that the Nordic welfare states have not been particularly successful when it comes to battling social inequalities through education. In this paper, I address how place matters in educational outcomes in the sense that rural students are underperforming compared to their urban counterparts and that rural young people conduct educational choices that differ from those conducted by young people residing in more urban settings (fex. Bæck, 2015; Green & Corbett, 2013; Hargreaves, Kvalsund, & Galton, 2009). This poses a threat to an underlying principle in the Nordic welfare states, where education is a universal public good to be accessed independently of individuals’ backgrounds and resources, including geographic location, and where success should also be independent of such factors.
An objective for this paper is to contribute to a discussion of developmental traits connected to place and space, and of how they challenge the foundations for a Nordic model of education, using the Norwegian case as an empirical backdrop, while at the same time drawing on research findings from the other Nordic countries. I will discuss whether there are specific spatial challenges when it comes to realising the foundation of the Nordic model of education. I will demonstrate the existence of spatial inequalities in education and discuss some developmental traits that are significant in order to understand why such inequalities continues to persist.
Another objective of this paper is to contribute to theoretical discussions of such phenomena through employing tools from critical realism and the morphogenetic approach put forward by Margaret Archer. The paper argue that these approaches and concepts allows for explorations that can contribute to deeper understandings of the phenomena at hand.
One of the challenges connected to conducting spatial education analyses has to do with the multiple levels that must be taken into consideration. Geographic location implies more than just geography, and structural, social and cultural processes must be taken into consideration in order to grasp geographic location’s significance for educational choices and achievements (Bæck, 2015). Even though this is also true for many other research areas, the necessity of multi-level analysis seems even more crucial when we introduce space or place as a variable in studies of educational attainments, preferences or careers, since in order to understand the way space affects individual choices and actions we need to look at factors at micro, meso and macro-level. In this paper, opportunity structure is put forward as a construct enabling us to understand that processes leading up to spatial differences in educational outcomes and trajectories needs to take into consideration multiple factors at multiple levels of analysis. Elements from critical realism and the morphogenetic approach to social analysis are employed in order to address such differences as dynamic and multilevel phenomena, including both individual and organizational input.
The paper mainly has a theoretical focus. However, empirical examples/illustrations from two studies in the north of Norway will be presented: (1) 54 qualitative interviews collected among upper secondary school students in six upper secondary schools in a county in North Norway. Most of the students are in vocational education and training, and two thirds of them are girls. (2) An ongoing study of geographical differences in 4 case municipalities in the north of Norway, focusing on educational orientations among rural youth. Data material consist of qualitative interviews with teachers, lower secondary school students and parents in the municipalities.
Expected conclusions/findings: The illustrations from the two studies from North Norway show that actors are not only responding to local opportunity structures but are also able to restructure and change their own opportunity structures. From this follows a discussion of continuity and change when it comes to the premises and conditions for education orientations among rural youth through the opportunity structures they relate to. This paper shows how the morphogenetic framework can add insights into the study of spatial differences in education, through insisting on a dynamic understanding of how different levels interact with each other, creating dynamics that may induce processes of change or continuity (reproduction) when it comes to the opportunity structures young people relate to. Even though the discussions in the paper relates primarily to what we may call the Nordic model, the kinds of tensions between rural contexts and national educational systems described here are taking place in other national contexts all over the world.
Bæck, U.-D. K. (2015). Rural location and academic success. Remarks on research, contextualisation and methodology. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. doi:10.1080/00313831.2015.1024163 Esping-Andersen, G. (1985). Politics against markets. The social democratic road to power. Princeton: Princeton University Press. . Esping-Andersen, G. (1996). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press. Green, B., & Corbett, M. (2013). Rural education and literacies: An introduction. In B. Green & M. Corbett (Eds.), Rethinking rural literacies: Transnational perspectives (pp. 1-13). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Hargreaves, L., Kvalsund, R., & Galton, M. (2009). Reviews of research on rural schools and their communities in British and Nordic countries: Analytical perspectives and cultural meaning International Journal of Educational Research, 48, 80-88. Telhaug, A. O., Mediås, O. A., & Aasen, P. (2006). The Nordic Model in Education: Education as part of the political system in the last 50 years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 245-283. doi:10.1080/00313830600743274
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