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Organizational challenges for schools in rural municipalities: cross-national comparisons in a Nordic context
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History, Economic and social geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5672-4003
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History. (Arcum)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6557-3876
2015 (English)In: Journal of Research in Rural Education, ISSN 1551-0670, E-ISSN 1551-0670, Vol. 30, no 6, p. 1-14Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study, the spatial structure of primary schools and alternative organizational frameworks are studied in a number of rural municipalities in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The aim of the study is to investigate how the spatial structure of schools has changed between the years 2008 and 2013 in these municipalities, what strategies the municipalities have developed to adapt their schools to changing conditions, and what constraints there are to apply the strategies at the local level. To answer these questions, semi-structured interviews with municipal representatives were conducted. Substantial changes to the spatial structure of school organizations through closures and mergers can be observed. The overall strategy for the future in all three national settings is a spatial structure with well equipped and well staffed schools in municipal centers and as few small village schools as possible, using information and communication technology (ICT) as a distance-bridging technology. The constraints to applying these strategies are on three different spatial levels. At the state level, the state places constraints regarding what municipalities and schools can and cannot do. At the municipal level, local politicians do not want to close schools for fear of losing the next election. At the community level, the constraints mainly lie in the resistance and strong social capital of the inhabitants who are focused on keeping their schools open irrespective of per capita costs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Penn State University Press, 2015. Vol. 30, no 6, p. 1-14
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-103964OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-103964DiVA, id: diva2:905290
Projects
Interreg Botnia-Atlantica project “Learning about Development in Botnia-Atlantica.”
Note

Sponsored by the European Regional Development Fund, County Administrative Board of Västerbotten, Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, Vasa University, Åbo Academy, and Umeå University.

Available from: 2016-02-22 Created: 2015-06-04 Last updated: 2018-03-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Schools in sparse spatial structures
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Schools in sparse spatial structures
2017 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis describes and analyses how the school sector in sparsely populated municipalities in northern Sweden has developed with emphasis on spatial dimensions and in relation to demographic change and political reforms during the last 20 years.

In paper I primary schools were studied in a number of small municipalities in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The aim of the study was to investigate how the spatial structure of schools has changed, what strategies the municipalities have developed to adapt their schools to changing conditions and what constraints there are to apply the strategies. To answer these questions, semi-structured interviews with municipal representatives were conducted.

In paper II, the upper secondary school system was studied. The aim of the paper was to analyse the combined consequences of the school reforms, demographic development and competition on the ability of small municipalities to provide upper secondary schools during the period 1997 to 2015 in the four northernmost counties of Sweden. The study was based on data from the database SIRIS at the Swedish National Agency for Education and has a descriptive approach.

The spatial structure of school organizations under study has undergone substantial changes during the recent decades, with closures and mergers among primary schools and an expansion of upper secondary schools. In recent years, the size of the young cohorts have decreased, which overall has led to increasing pressures to close primary schools and has created a detrimental competition between upper secondary schools. The large distances and the already small and declining number of pupils have had major effects on the ability to offer a good range and quality in the supply and availability of education. According to representatives from all the studied municipalities, the ambition is to prioritize the primary schools in the municipal centre and have as few small village schools as possible, taking into consideration quality of education, per capita costs, distances, and how scattered the pupils are within the municipalities. Independent schools and their increasingly larger role have attracted a great deal of attention in media, but this is a change that has mainly occurred in municipalities with large populations and their presence in the studied municipalities is very small both at the primary and upper secondary level.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Department of geography and economic history, Umeå university, 2017. p. 54
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2017:2
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-143192 (URN)9789176016428 (ISBN)
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-12-19 Created: 2017-12-19 Last updated: 2017-12-21Bibliographically approved

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