The rural school is characterized as a type of educational center with a low number of students. This does not allow reaching the minimum quotas to distribute to children in different classrooms and groups according to their educational level. It’s what we call multigrade school .
However, this is not an impediment for children of different ages to share the classroom, teachers and, therefore, their knowledge and learning. All students, with their differences in ages, learning rhythms and cultural and social aspects coexist in the same space where a single teacher must achieve the challenge of scheduling activities with which all students, regardless of their age, achieve their learning goals, in addition to contributing actively to the development of their social and communication skills.
Based on this, and in many cases the lack or lack of resources, it is possible to measure the complexity of this teaching activity, which requires a high sense and ability to solve problems in educational settings that are sometimes unpredictable . Without a doubt, the ability to innovate in classrooms and in learning spaces is important. But, what are the challenges and possibilities for the pedagogical attention of these educational centers?
Key aspects to transform teaching
In Spain, and according to the data of the report of the School Council of the State , in the 2016-2017 academic year, 74,219 students were enrolled in rural centers, which represents 2.4% of the total number of students enrolled in these courses.
During this same school year, in Mexico, according to the Indicators of the National Educational System 2017 , pre-school and primary multigrade schools represented 28.7% and 43.2% of the total of schools of both educational levels, thus converting this construct into a topic of priority attention in the Mexican educational policy.
In both cases, the aforementioned figures represent a value important enough to take into account the educational experiences that take place in this context and the impact they have on learning.
The UNESCO notes that the most important task of schools is to ensure an inclusive, equitable and quality education, and promoting learning opportunities throughout life and for all, as described in the action plan Agenda Education 2030 .
The most important thing is to provide the students with an educational experience with the resources and methodologies necessary to appropriate the contents that allow them to achieve the objectives and to function efficiently in the environment in which they live.
This is one of the great challenges faced by contemporary rural education and is a priority line for numerous projects worldwide, such as the HORIZONS project in Latin America.
The diversity of students, together with the characteristics of the classrooms, spaces and the specific environment that most of these rural schools have, is configured as a context that favors and promotes that educators can develop innovative activities through active methodologies, in which the exchange of knowledge, collaborative work, gamification, communication and the use of technology are a fundamental pillar of learning.
In this sense, we can consider that the implementation of constructivist educational approaches are concepts that should be present in the multigrade classroom.
Without having to have large resources and making use of the environment as a fundamental basis of learning, methodologies such as Visual Thinking , Design Thinking , Project Based Learning or Problem Based Learning, are configured as key tools for the understanding and development of sustainability competencies , keys for human development in the 21st century.
The use of the environment and natural environment as an educational tool and learning space in the rural context, open and flexible, leads to instruct students in a dynamic and motivating way, encouraging collaborative work, curiosity and creativity, as well as the development of critical and reflective thinking.
Space as a facilitator of learning
Although it is true that multigrade rural educational centers must take into account some challenges related to infrastructures, the population dispersion and the complexity of the heterogeneity and diversity in the classrooms; some educational experts consider that the environment in the rural area is the ideal setting for the enhancement of effective and meaningful learning.
The richness of the rural scenario in its variety of cultural, social, architectural, gastronomic and natural contexts, favors the possibility of interconnecting the educational processes with the customs and the daily order of the rural nucleus.
We all know that the experiences and natural and practical learning ( Learning by Doing ), where the student is experimenting and investigating with their own knowledge, is one of the causes of greater effectiveness of educational experiences for people.
In this sense, creating and renovating classrooms and understanding open and interconnected spaces as an opportunity to improve and motivate learning is a challenge that invites us to think about what part of educational innovation goes through the generation of dynamic and inspiring environments where The student is at the center of the learning experience and the teacher acts as mediator of knowledge.
In 2019, the development of good practices around the rural school is recognized worldwide by granting Professor Peter Tabichi the Global Teacher Prize.
A great potential for innovation
If we consider that innovation is a process of continuous improvement, sustainable and that generates value, projects such as “Haciendo Hacenderas” collected by the COTEC Foundation are a clear example of innovation in rural school, by promoting the development of cultural intelligence, work as a team, community work and the active participation of the elderly in the learning process.
In the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, educators, the administration, the school community and students discuss many essential aspects for the training of rural school teachers in Crawford Baythrough the school garden project.
The potential of the rural school lies, therefore, in the development of globalizing didactic strategies, based on inquiry, interacting directly with the environment and with the active participation of all the agents involved in the teaching-learning process.
Author Bios: Silvia Carrascal is Vice-Rector for Teaching and Learning and Montserrat Magro Gutiérrez is a PhD student in Education Sciences both at Camilo José Cela University