Rural Schools and Traditional Knowledge

Representing Alternatives to a Consumer-Dependent Existence


  • Barbara Barter Memorial University of Newfoundland



traditional knowledge, critical pedagogy, pedagogy of place, globalisation


Given the present pace of educational globalization, educators – especially in rural schools – will benefit from an awareness of traditional knowledge as a significant contributor to sustainability. Many countries operate through a system whereby major decision making, especially in such areas as education and health, emanate from state levels of governance; and these decisions are often uni-directional. In education this implies a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy that forces educator compliance with accountability driven pedagogy and curricula subjected to competitive standardized testing processes that are caught up in market driven values. Aims of a research pilot (Harris & Barter, 2011-2012) in one province in Canada, and through a critical pedagogy of place and participatory research, were to introduce students and community members in rural areas to issues of local relevance; to develop school curricula that call for students-as-researchers; and, as an example of local knowledge and relevance, to focus on food practices (past, present, and as future possibility).

Initial findings of the pilot indicate the changing nature of rural life that includes a move from remoteness to semi-isolation brought about with the building of roads and effective ferry connections, transient populations seeking seasonal employment, and a growing awareness of people’s need to revive past practices of food production. We found as well, examples of extraordinary innovation in food cultivation and food harvesting that drew on local and traditional knowledge. Finally, we experienced success in incorporating traditional knowledge into existing curriculum. This we did by varying ways of knowing and experiencing through the arts. For us as researchers, two important concepts permeated this research, critical pedagogy of place and traditional knowledge. In this paper, situated in a framework of cultural and social resistance to economic globalization, I describe initial efforts of the pilot project in expanding the discourse of rural studies, exploring traditional and local rural knowledge, and increasing rural agency. While providing a brief overview of the project, its specific purpose is to highlight the relevance of traditional knowledge as a significant contributor to sustainable global growth. I think of the potential that such knowledge, which often originates from rural environments, has to represent an alternative to consumer dependence.




How to Cite

Barter, B. (2014). Rural Schools and Traditional Knowledge: Representing Alternatives to a Consumer-Dependent Existence. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 24(1), 9–22.