Episode IV.3 – Being innovative, creative and daring in a rural environment
Location: Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga (MTR) Ólafsfjörður
Date: March 8th 2018
Participants (organisations): UNMFFREO (France), FD MFR Reunion (France), IFOCAP (France), Sol et Civilisation (France), OFFA (Belgium), Verkmenntaskolinn á Akureyri – VMA (Iceland), GAL Napoca Porolissum (Romania), Viva Sol (Lithuania), BSC (Slovenia) and MTR (Iceland).
MTR is an upper-secondary school which is located in Ólafsfjörður, a small fishing village at the outer part of Eyjafjörður. Lára Stefánsdóttir, the principal of MTR, welcomed the group and explained how the school needed to use innovative methods and implement new ideas in order for a brand new school in a rural area to create a niche in the world.
MTR has about 100 students on location and 280 online students. The school functions under Iceland´s newest curriculum and specializes in providing more flexibility in study options. MTR has an online teaching program which allows the instructors to be creative when incorporating resources from the internet with their curricula. The school does not only provide distance learning for students. Thanks to the technology available, the school is also capable of providing distance teaching for subjects that do not have a qualified local instructor with virtual classrooms.
In her presentation Lára stressed the importance of preparing the students for the next artificial intelligence revolution as the labour market is likely to change dramatically in the next few years as a result of this revolution. This is the main reason why innovation is seen as the hallmark concept of MTR´s motto. Teaching the students to use innovative methods in their work helps to prepare them for the future labour market and to create innovative work opportunities in rural places. As Lára stressed, people who want to live in rural areas like Ólafsfjörður must be innovative and find new ways in order to survive.
When establishing MTR the board looked at how the school would benefit from the society and how the society would benefit from the school as well. When preparing education it is important to capitalize the opportunities you have in your local surroundings. Ólafsfjörður and the surrounding areas are characterized by high mountains, green valleys, lakes and the sea. The location provides opportunities for an all year around outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and water sports so the school decided to offer a sports and outdoor track program. MTR also provides an art program that often cooperates with a local artist residency program for artists from all over the world. To be able to provide more traditional study programs like social studies and natural science, ICT and online teaching program has proven to be useful. This way the school can reach out to a bigger group of students which makes it possible to offer a wider selection of studies using distance education. By using technology and being innovative, creative and daring the rural can enrich the global!
One of the reasons for starting the school was a low educational level of the people in the area. Young people were isolated in their small community and not getting a proper education. But the main idea behind MTR was to educate the young people in the local area to stay and not to leave. The community has also benefitted from the school in many ways. Ólafsfjörður can still have local sport teams because there are enough young people staying. Students have helped the tourism industry to grow in the area by taking on jobs in the sector. And the local pizza restaurant is now open all year round thanks to the students of MTR. MTR is therefore a good example of how a school can influence the development of an area.