Autti & Kettunen (2018): “Teachers’ experiences and perceptions on spatial inequalities in education”

Autti & Kettunen (2018): “Teachers’ experiences and perceptions on spatial inequalities in education”. Paper presented at the NERA Congress (Nordic Education Research Association) in Oslo March 2018.

Findings of many studies worldwide demonstrate that students attending rural schools perform less well than their urban counterparts (e.g. Hardré & Hennessey 2010; Kryst, Kotok & Bodovski 2015). In Finland, however, most of the variance in performance is seen within schools rather than between schools, showing that rural and urban schools in Finland have similar achievement levels and students are not selected by academic ability. Even though the impact of socio-economic status on the risk of low performance is lower than the OECD average, since 2000, however, the impact of socio-economic background has increased in Finland. Students’ background and gender matter: boys and students with immigrant background have a higher risk of lower performance (OECD 2013).

Research project RUR-ED (Spatial Inequalities and Spatial Justice in Education) studies how space impacts educational inequalities – the overall objective of the project is to investigate whether there is a disconnect between the processes and practices of schooling and rural individuals’ social and cultural resources, that can explain differences in learning outcomes between rural and urban students. One task of RUR-ED project is to investigate whether teachers’ perceptions of their work vary between rural and urban settings. The project data is collected in Norway, Finland and Canada. Qualitative interviews with teachers are conducted in all of these countries at selected case study sites. In our presentation, we focus on the Finnish interview data collected among secondary and upper secondary school teachers in two rural municipalities in northern Finland. We investigate 1) whether teachers’ perceptions of their work vary between rural and urban settings and 2) whether teachers are conscious of spatial issues in education, and if so, incorporate this in any way in their teaching.

Attitudes towards spatial inequalities in education seem to vary between teachers. Teachers’ work as such is not considered very different in rural and urban areas; the differences that were mentioned were long distances, different physical and social environments, small number of pupils and its positive effects on learning situations and learning outcomes. Some teachers acknowledge the importance of the local community and bring local content into the classroom. Some have recently started to pay more attention to local community partly because of the new curriculum that emphasizes the importance of local content. They view that local contents in teaching connect school activities to wider local activities and promote the wellbeing of students.

RUR-ED is managed by UiT with collaboration partners from University of Oulu, Acadia University and University of Tasmania.


Hardré PL and Hennessey M (2010). Two rural worlds: Differences of rural high school students’ motivational profiles in Indiana and Colorado. Journal of Research in Rural Education 25: 1-32.

Kryst EL, Kotok S and Bodovski K (2015). Rural/Urban Disparities in Science Achievement in Post- Socialist Countries: The Evolving Influence of Socioeconomic Status. Global Education Review 2, 4: 60-77

OECD (2013). Education policy outlook Finland.