The DISTANS – team invited to yet another webinar on education and educational projects aimed at rural communities on Monday April 17th. This time we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Anna Guðrún Edvarðsdóttir on her research in three distinct rural areas in Iceland and Scotland.
She told us that governments usually emphasize economic measures in their endeavours to meet challenges rural communities deal with. The communities she studied have experienced the classical challenges other rural areas experience: decreased population, brain drain and thus a lack of skilled people to do the necessary work. Traditional measures are usually economic in character and include measrues such as encouraging large industries to set up sites in the rural area – such as the aluminium smelters in Iceland. Other measures are educational: Highschools and university research institutes were situated around the country always with the same argumentation: That by offering edcational opportunities locally the young people would not leave the area and stay on to start families and work. Education also seems to be a method we think of as a way to deal with change, crisis or other difficulties.
This approach is usually called a three helix approach, which Anna Guðrún criticized, and emphasized that in order to achieve development, a four or five helix approach is necessary: where the community and environmental aspects play a constructive role in all measures to develop the community.
Anna Guðrún related that women who had participated in distance education offerings and she interviewed had not taken learning paths which opened up new fields of influence for them, but rather strengthened them in traditional female roles and spheres of influence. Moreover their education had not helped them to connect the learning content to their own situations or support them to become, what she called active place-makers. It seems evident, both from her studies and from our personal experience from a previous project on the same theme, that for rural communities to thrive local people need to take responsibility for creating the place they want their society to by, by making the place a viable one.
Which returns us to another point Anna Guðrún stressed: That it is not enough to add various institutions, support education and industry so that people want to continue living in rural areas, the quality of live must be such that people are happy to live there.
- Find Anna Guðrún here: Research Gate, at her research company and read her thesis here.
- Listen to a recording of this Webinar
- Anna Guðrún’s slides from the webinar
If you did not attend this webinar, add yourself to our mailing list to get an invitation to our next webinar on educational projects in rural areas.