Lost in Co-operation: Challenges for Actors in Rural Community Education in Northern Germany

Activity: Talk or presentationConference PresentationsResearch

Anke Wischmann - Speaker

    In this contribution, we will investigate different standpoints and perspectives of actors in a rural community education project in northern Germany in terms of reconstructing professional skills for community educators and educational co-ordinators.
    Many rural areas in Germany – especially the north and east of the country – are facing significant problems that are related to certain demographic developments (BiB 2013). In many counties and communities the number of citizens is decreases. It is mainly the young, well-educated people who are moving to urban areas. This leads to an over-aging of the local population and has great impact on the economic, social and educational infrastructure. For example, the local authorities of Luechow-Dannenberg in Lower Saxony plan to close 6 out of 10 primary schools, because too few children are living in this area (Schulz 2015). But then again the absence of primary education opportunities will keep younger people to move to the area. However, this dilemma has been recognized by many communities and there is a variety of measures and projects that aim to (re-)improve the local “educational landscapes” by implementing community education approaches that emphasize the necessity of co-operation and networking between local actors and intuitions (Bleckmann und Schmidt 2012; Arbeitsgemeinschaft Weinheimer Initiative 2013). Those are not only genuine educational, but also political, economic, administrative, and cultural actors and institutions. At the first sight, they all seem to have the same interest: to increase the living conditions and the attractiveness of the community. However, if we take a closer look, the range of interests is enormous and some might be even contradictory. We argue that managing these interests is crucial to implement a working basis for community education in the first place.
    In contrast to many other European countries, especially the UK and Scandinavia, the community education approach (Midwinter 1973; Krüger und Poster 1990; McGivney 1999) is relatively new to the German context and there is very little research on the praxis of community education yet (Buhren 1997). We understand community education not only as a management tool, but as certain understanding of education as a socially organized and democratic process. This means that ideally and potentially all citizens of a community are able to participate and to profit from educational opportunities.
    In this contribution, we will investigate the different perspectives, interests of different actors in relation to each other. These relations are understood as power relations that are restrictive and productive at the same time (Foucault 1972). Whereas some communities implemented professional offices (“Bildungsbueros”) to coordinate community education, many rely on the engagement of (pedagogical) professionals that are already there, like teachers and social workers and local authorities. Since these people are explicitly not in a neutral position, but have to represent their very institution or clients, and are often already congested with work, they are likely to get lost between different demands and interests.
    By using the case of a small town in Lower Saxony, Jesteburg, that is actually implementing structures and networks for community education practices, we will reconstruct how different positions are related to each other and what that means for community education.

    This paper belongs to a symposium with the title "Rural Schools As Hubs For The Socio-Educational Development Of The Community"


    European Conference on Educational Research 2016: Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers


    Dublin, Ireland

    Event: Conference