A European project will design a rural education agency for development
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT In collaboration with the Observatory of International Cooperation for Development of the University of Valladolid (UVA), the Valladolid County Council is coordinating a European project called the Rural DEAR Agenda (Development, Education and Awareness Raising), the ultimate aim of which is improving the planning of education action for development in the rural world.
The project anticipates the drawing up of a rural education agenda for development in Europe and will be implemented simultaneously in seven European towns, provinces, and regions: Valladolid (Spain), Idalion (Cyprus), Vratsa (Bulgaria), Thessaloniki (Greece), Malta, Zgiergz (Poland), and Molise (Italy). The initiative has a budget of 1’8 million euros, 85 per cent of which is financed by the European Union; it started last January and will continue for three years.
The project originated five years ago when the International Cooperation Area for Development of the University of Valladolid detected the existence of a multitude of educational activities for development directed at different target groups at a local, autonomous region, and national level, which are organised by administrations, NGOs, and other entities albeit without a common strategy.
“There is a set of activities for educating people about the problem of development at a global level in which many players are involved, but these activities do not coincide with an education plan for structured development. For this reason we are considering how to draw up a strategy: the first thing to do is to make a diagnosis as to the population's knowledge of education for development themes, what awareness exists, what should be known, and what one should be aware of”, explains Luis Javier Miguel, the director of the Observatory.
With financing obtained from a national project, the group made this diagnosis in Castilla y León, as a result of which it published in 2012 a book entitled Observatory on education for development, “a photograph of the situation of education for development in the community from various viewpoints”.
This is one of the most complete Spanish studies on the situation of education for development. It analysed the work of institutions (the Regional Government of Castilla y León and its county councils and town councils), of educational establishments (primary and secondary schools, universities), of non-governmental organisations, and of other players, such as trade unions or various kinds of associations.
Public opinion on education for development was also researched by holding discussion groups (organised by provinces, ages, levels of education, etc.) and population surveys (in all provinces and in some schools). Likewise an analysis was carried out of the visibility of education for development in the media and in textbooks, mainly of secondary education. Finally, the teaching campaigns and materials designed by the NGOs were examined to get to know aspects such as their impact indexes or the type of information they transmit.
After carrying out this diagnosis, the objective of the Observatory was to contribute towards the designing of a strategic plan in Castilla y León, but the project ended and could not be continued. “We then thought of requesting a European project and extending this approach to Europe. We contacted several partners to carry out an initial diagnosis with the rules that we had followed and we presented the idea. In this case the ultimate aim is to design agendas of education for development in European rural areas, taking seven areas as a reference, and drawing up strategies that can be comparable and subsequently be used as a reference in the rest of Europe", Luis Javier Miguel recalls.
The Valladolid County Council is the administrative coordinator, while the Cooperation Observatory of the UVA acts as the technical coordinator of the project. “We are going to repeat the diagnosis study that we carried out in Castilla y León in a simplified form in the seven rural areas of the project. With this information we will create a rough draft of the agenda and will carry out a pilot study to check how it works. With the experience that we obtain we will develop a definitive agenda for each of the seven areas and will extrapolate a general agency model that could be useful in all European areas”, he concludes.