14 SES 01 A, Eductional Apects of Rural Schooling – Possibilities, Challenges and Changes
Urban education - the conference theme of ECER 2011 - is a hegemonic phenomenon. Besides operating as "greenhouses for educational change and educational reform all over the world", as stated in the conference website, cities are becoming increasingly closer to a status of exclusiveness in the provision of formal education (Kvalsund, 2009). As a logical result of general changes in the geographical organization of society, the network of elementary schools in economically developed countries during the last decades has been characterized by reduction and territorial concentration (Hampl, 2000). The main causes of these phenomena include: decreases in birth rates and other demographic variables (Caldwell, 2006), pressures to close small schools for the sake of cost savings (Åbeg-Bengtsson, 2009), and a tendency to increasing the variety of specialized teachers and specific kinds of learning environments at the earliest stages of schooling (Bell & Sigsworth, 1987). This process of concentration has strongly increased the polarization of space in terms of access to elementary education, which raises issues of territorial and social inequalities (Warrington, 2005). In many countries, including Portugal and Czechia, concentration of formal education in cities has been made at the same time as the curriculum has been, to some extent, decentralized. Accordingly, legislation has called for the adaptation of national curricula to local realities through School-based Curricular Projects in the Portuguese schools and School Educational Programs in the Czech schools. Instead of being used to promote local ownership of the curriculum, those devices have frequently been viewed by local actors as useless (Řezníčková, 2009) or as a bureaucratic burden (Freire, 2005), which has frequently led to the production of formal documents that convey a stereotyped view of the local reality. In the specific case of rural schools, stereotypes sometimes consist of "folkloric" views of the rural world, which neglects the fact that nowadays "the rural world is 'impure', colonized by the urban world and by the global culture" (Sarmento, 2003, p. 65). In order to understand how the local territory is represented in rural schools' curricula, it is important to study how teachers in those schools view the local territory and the extent to which they teach knowledge about that same territory, including knowledge about its relationship with the urban world. Given the rural students’ disadvantage in terms of territorial inequality, “folkloric” representations of the local territory can only contribute to worsen that same disadvantage, by failing to consider the students’ culture and the fact that it is strongly influenced by the urban culture. Curricula that represent the local territories by taking their complex relationship with the urban world into consideration are, in principle, potentially more empowering to students, in terms of the development of competencies that enable them to deal with territorial inequality. In the light of these assumptions, we are studying how knowledge of the local territory is translated into local curricula in some Portuguese and Czech rural schools.
Åbeg-Bengtsson, L. (2009). The smaller the better? A review of research on small rural schools in Sweden. International Journal of Educational Research, 48, 100-108. Bell, A. & Sigsworth, A. (1987). The small rural primary school. London: Routledge. Caldwell, J. C. (2006). Demographic transition theory. Dodrecht: Springer. Freire, A. C. (2005). Projectos curriculares de turma - Da formalização à gestão contextualizada [School-based Curricular Projects: From a formal approach to a context-sensitive management]. In M. C. Roldão (Ed.), Estudos de práticas de gestão do currículo: Que qualidade de ensino e de aprendizagem? (pp. 77-103). Lisboa: Universidade Católica Editora. Hampl, M. (2000). Reality, society and geographical/environmental organization: Searching for an integrated order. Prague: DemoArt. Kvalsund, R. (2009). Centralized decentralization or decentralized centralization? A review of newer Norwegian research on schools and their communities. International Journal of Educational Research, 48, 89-99. Řezníčková, D. (2009). The transformation of geography education in Czechia. Geografie, 114, (4), 316–331. Sarmento, M. J. (2003). Educação em meio rural: Lógicas de acção e administração simbólica da infância [Education in rural settings: The rationales for action and the symbolic administration of childhood]. Aprender - Revista da Escola Superior de Educação de Portalegre, 28, 62-73. Warrington, M. (2005). Mirage in the desert? Access to educational opportunities in an area of social exclusion. Antipode, 37, 796-816.
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