Using rural frameworks and research to develop understandings of educational justice and equity across socio-spatial settings

Year: 2019

Author: Beach, Dennis, Öhrn, Elisabet

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

During industrialization production industries tended to become increasingly concentrated with this stimulating urbanization and the growth of large cities. These environments became understood as the norm for capitalist production economies and consequently the schools in them also became the pivot of educational research and policy. A lot of this research became caught up in the dynamics of urban problems and social difficulties tended to become the focus of the research. Education sociology became an urban subject primarily and the problems of urban intensive schools were the main focus. An urban normalisation developed that tended to hide other important markers of educational relations and, not least, of social structures as social class across socio-spatial settings

This paper takes this metrocentric understandings, and in particular the understandings in educational research of of marginalisation, poverty and social fragmentation as urban issues, as a starting point. It then explores how analysis frameworks used in rural education research can add to this knowledge. We use experiences, theories and concepts from a recently completed research project onRural youth – education, place and participation(funded by the Swedish Research Council 2014 - 2017), to discuss what might be understood as generic or spacially specific relations. The project took as a starting point our earlier primarily urban educational research in areas like those referred to above, but was conducted in relation to aspects of educational justice and equity in rural areas. It was carried out in six different rural area schools, including sparsely populated areas, remote villages and small industrial and de-industrialised towns. It involved 340 hours of classroom observations as well as field conversations and formal interviews with 136 pupils and staff at the schools, supplemented with observations in the local neighbourhoods and document, social network and media analyses. In the paper we explore how researching with local people in rural spaces and places helped us to transcend the limits imposed on our knowledge of social relations by dominant metrocentric hegemonies. We discuss how economic production have become manifest in different ways in different areas, the understandings of local value and how people carve out personally meaningful places for education in relation to their lives, values and ambitions. We also show how the values that seem to develop from education consumption are extremely unevenly dispersed across the social whole according to social class and the availability of economic and other forms of capital.