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Small communities and the future of local schools

Framtida for skoler i distrikts-Norge. Hva står på spill? Short summary of the open seminar and conference in Oslo February 2 and 3 2017.

Published: Updated:

In the beginning of February 2017, the bilateral project “Rural depopulation and the governance of education, comparative study of Latvia and Norway” together with a Norwegian research network on rural schools, organised a two-days event. The objective with day 1 was to disseminate and discuss results with the general public, while the objective of the second day was to develop the topic further with researchers from different countries in an international workshop. The scholars represented different fields of science – education, rural sociology, political sociology – thus offering various perspectives on education in rural areas.

The two days represented an opportunity to present and discuss findings from the bilateral project between Latvia and Norway and get feedback thus, improving the analysis of results from both a Norwegian and a Latvian perspective.

In the international workshop the researchers presented their ongoing work, shared knowledge on the latest innovative findings and developments in the field, and talked about their research interests in order to discover overlapping themes and possibilities to cooperate. Opportunities to summit an application to ongoing project calls were discussed. Among the topics the researchers will be looking to apply for are:

  1. The challenges of multigrade education in rural areas
  2. Learning communities: involvement of communities in the school processes
  3. Integration of immigrant children into the rural education system
  4. Interactive learning: opportunities for the future

The researchers agreed to seek financing possibilities for joint projects in the future, for example, in the Interreg and NordPlus grant scheme. Interreg was deemed as particularly promising, and the call will be announced later this year. Among the problems that were mentioned is that many grant calls require co-funding, which is very difficult to secure. Some grant opportunities also exist in the Research Council of Norway, yet they are very competitive. Still, the Norwegian partners agreed that the comparative aspect can make an application more competitive, thus, they will think about possibilities to involve other partners in the project applications as well, for example, about the integration of migrants from Latvia in Norway. The researchers also agreed that there are no calls at the moment in the Horizon 2020 program that would fit the research interests of the participants, but they will be following the calls closely and getting in touch again if something relevant appears.

The discussions about future cooperation have already resulted in a joint grant application: “From past to future: Migration and Identity trough Life-stories' network” led by the Latvian Oral History researcher's association "Life-story" that was submitted to Nordplus Adult program, with both LU FSI and NIBR as project partners.

The established contacts are likely to lead to more joint project applications, for example, in the Horizon 2020 or similar programmes on the topic of the future for education and rural communities. The researchers also used the opportunity to discuss face-to-face their joint publications. Hence, the bilateral funds, Norway Grants, have helped to strengthen bilateral research relations, innovation and visibility of the project, contributing to further collaborations and the sustainability of the established networks.

International workshop on “Small communities and the future of local schools”. Oslo, February 3, 2017.

List of participants

Name, Institution:

  • Maria Rönnlund, Umeå University
  • Karl Jan Solstad, Nordland Research Institute
  • Susanne Søholt, NIBR
  • Aadne Asland, NIBR
  • Mariann Villa, Norsk senter for bygdeforskning/NTNU
  • Thuridur Johannsdottir, University of Iceland, Reykjavík
  • Annemarie Augschöll Blasbichler, Faculty of Education, Free University of Bolzano Bozen
  • Linda Hargreaves, University of Cambridge
  • Inta Mieriņa, University of Latvia, IPS UL
  • Aleksandrs Aleksandrovs, University of Latvia, IPS UL
  • Inese Šūpule, University of Latvia, IPS UL