Panel G.13 — Reframing the margins. Changing the discourse on multigrade education to support equity and social inclusion in rural and remote areas

Convenors Laura Parigi (INDIRE, Italy); Giuseppina Rita Mangione (INDIRE, Italy); Cath Gristy (University of Plymouth); Begoña Vigo Arrazola (Universidad de Zaragoza)

Keywords Multigrade education, rural education, equity, social inclusion


According to UNESCO (2007), approximately 30% of students worldwide attend primary education in multigrade classes. These types of classes are prevalent in many rural areas of countries considered to be part of the minority world, such as the United States, Canada, and most European countries, where they are typically the result of depopulation and demographic decline in remote areas. They are also widely spread in the most remote and fragile areas in majority world countries like India, China, Nepal, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil (Cornish, 2021; Kivunja, 2015).

Despite the extent of the phenomenon, multigrade is still not a relevant topic in educational research and policy discussions. Multigrade education is often viewed as a deviation from the traditional monograde system, and a significant portion of research focuses on the disparities in educational achievements (Barbetta, 2022) and the challenges faced by teachers who lack adequate training (Condy, 2014; Kalender, 2021). This metrocentric perspective on education (Corbett, 2021) contributes to bias and prejudices against non-standard classes (Mulryan-Kyne, 2004; Cornish, 2006) and to the marginalization of multigrade and students’ and teachers’ voices in the educational debate.

Multigrade education has been found to have significant implications for promoting equity and social inclusion in the education system (Vigo et al., 2014). The diverse and heterogeneous nature of the classroom, which is a defining feature of multigrade instruction, motivates teachers to adopt differentiated instruction strategies that cater to the unique learning needs of individual students (Taole, 2019; Shareefa, 2021). Mixed-age teaching has been found to be effective in promoting remedial education and preventing retention. Additionally, it can enhance learning attainment through the implementation of cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and the development of student autonomy (Cronin, 2019). These strategies have been shown to be particularly effective in improving academic performance and reducing the achievement gap among students of different ages and abilities. Moreover, multigrade schooling has proven to have a positive impact on the social background of rural areas as an effect of a local curriculum development and civic engagement (Hincapie, 2015).

According to this scenario, the panel’s main purpose it’s to discuss multigrade as as a promising pedagogy (Hyry-Beihammer, 2015) opposite to the current dominant representation as “non-standard” schooling. The panel is open to contributions on the following topics:

  • Multigrade and the “metrocentric perspective” on education: challenges and opportunities for educational policy and teachers’ professional development.

  • Multigrade as a beneficial choice for teachers (e.g child centered curriculum, classroom management, family relationship), parents (social benefits, personalized attention, secure/stable environment, closer relationship with schools) and children (e.g gift of time, not labeled, personal success) and community (e.g well being, democratic society, social inclusion)? (Stone & Burris 2019).

  • “Rural imaginary” and “Multigrade Understanding” – What images first come to mind when you think of rural and multigrade teaching”? Who does your vision include and exclude? (Azano et al., 2020).

  • “Social Justice” in multigrade contexts – Education in rural school, education in multigrade classes is a project of social justice or as “parity of participation” (Fraser 2009).


Guidelines and abstracts submission