Rural education scholars and activists from all corners of the globe converged June 19-23 on Abingdon, Va., to share with each other the struggles of rural schools and people worldwide.
Researchers presented academic papers on education and other topics at the fourth International Rural Network Conference.
Learn more about the International Rural Network Conference.
South African scholar Rajendra Chetty shared his research on what he found to be a low quality of schooling provided to families living on commercial farms in his country. Students struggle to learn in dilapidated buildings and walk as far as eight kilometers to attend school, said Mr. Chetty, who heads education research at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town.
Wenche Roenning, a researcher at the Nordland Research Institute in Norway, told of rural Swedish and Norwegian schools’ struggles with extremely long bus rides and a lack of academic content focused on rural life or communities.
Megan McNicholl, the immediate past president of the Rural Education Forum Australia, spoke about the influence of rural parents on federal education policy in her country. “We’re not powerful; we’re influential,” Ms. McNicholl said.
Offering a view from the United States, a retired Alabama professor told conference participants how educators can use rural communities as platforms for teaching.
“Consequential learning,” which ties learning to community needs, helps students see that their own schoolwork can contribute to the development of rural communities, said Jack Shelton, who for many years ran a rural institute at the University of Alabama called PACERS, or the Program for Rural Services and Research. The community of Florala, Ala., for instance, built a first-rate fish hatchery that helps students learn about science, he said.
The International Rural Network itself links academics, activists, and policymakers from around the globe with the goal of improving rural life.