Education outside the campus and school room is often a success, but should be well-grounded. Involved local players must engage and also commit to doing their part of the job. These are among the conclusions of the currently winding-down Nordplus project, Presence at a Distance. The forerunner was the project "Education creates development on the outskirts", under the auspices of the Nordic Network for Adult Learning. Flexible education Norway (FuN) has been an active participant in both projects.
In fifteen examples of educational measures and projects across the Nordic Region, the project partners have been looking at the sustainability the measures have shown over time. In cases where the measures are successful, the factors that have been successful are mapped out. The examples are described as cases in the final report, which can be found here.
“Education at home will be an important wild card in future Norwegian education. The politicians should note this and see that there is a sustainable competence and training policy. It should also be possible to combine the place of residence, work and life situation with education. Fewer flights and less driving also provide environmental benefits,” said Torhild Slåtto, FuN's representative to the PaaD project and former CEO.
Political intervention needed
The project recommendations precisely indicate a need for political action to ensure an economic foundation for education in peripheral areas and locations far from educational institutions. Furthermore, the project partners are aware that the educational institutions must have incentives to collaborate with regional and local learning centres on decentralised educational services. This is well illustrated in several of the cases presented.
The project is a mapping with modest means, and not a research project. The full weight of the survey shows a great need for decentralised educational services so that all parts of the Nordic Region, including the so-called outskirts, will contribute to the further development of business and culture in the individual local communities, thus to the benefit of the society at large.
“The fifteen cases make fascinating reading. We have become acquainted with many different educational measures for adults, often creative and flexible solutions that are well adapted to the adult's life situation, place of residence and individual choices. The measures that have secured funding and anchored the project with management and with partners show both sustainability and success,” said PaaD Project Manager Jørgen Grubbe, from Denmark’s The Monnet Group.
Dedicated people and enthusiasts are a driving force in most of the described measures. They are a clear success factor, but the project group notes that the anchoring must be solid, and several people must be drawn into the project work, otherwise it will all suffer when an enthusiast leaves.
Another success factor is financing, unsurprisingly – that the measure has secure funding over time. This is also a challenge for many of the projects. They work well, but when the project funding ends, they are often in danger of being shut down, despite a clear need for the offered education.
Successful learning centres in Sweden are described, e.g., in Västervik and Lapland. They are well-rooted in the local government, have close collaboration with local business and with universities that provide the educational services. These municipalities have realised that a well-functioning learning centre creates an important condition for the municipality’s growth, increasing the possibility of people staying and not moving away. Other learning centres have had to cease activity because the project funding ended, and the municipality would not spend money to keep it going. Other reasons for closure have been lack of anchoring in management, or that enthusiasts left the job, and then the project lost energy, focus and control.
The educational institutions must participate
Both the Swedish learning centres and similar measures in several of the other Nordic countries have difficulty getting universities and colleges to contribute decentralised educational offers. The Tynset studie- og høgskolesenter has offered a number of college programmes for many years, and has greatly contributed to the region having good access to qualified employees both in private and public enterprises. However, getting educational institutions to deliver decentralised educational programmes has been challenging. There is no financial incentive to offer decentralised education at Tynset, for example. It is easier to provide students with offers on campus, and they can only accommodate the number of students that they have on campus. There is a great need for the authorities to provide clear guidance in order for them to offer decentralised programmes, or for the educational institutions to be incentivised to meet the desire of Tynset and many other places for higher education in the hometown.
Networks and technology
The project has not had a special focus on technology and methodology, but has been concerned about whether the projects have been sustainable and whether they have had a positive effects in the local area. Web tools and various digital tools were used in most cases, some were purely online studies, and others were collection-based education programmes using web or video transmission. It would not have been easy to implement many of the decentralised programmes without the use of networks. For example, the reindeer hunters in Kautokeino could not have come to the college for lectures when they had to keep watch in the wild. Likewise, adult students in Kiruna have been dependent on getting lectures and guidance online. The same applies to some of the students in the Framvegis project in Iceland, and students who study at a professional college in Denmark and sit in the Entrepreneur House in the Faroe Islands.
The article is from NVL (Nordic Network for Adult Learning) and it has been translated to English and Finnish by EPALE. NVL promotes collaboration for lifelong learning throughout the Nordic Region and contributes a knowledge base for decision-makers and practitioners. The Network is a programme under the Nordic Council of Ministers. More about lifelong learning can be found here.