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Sámi Education

Pigga Keskitalo, Kaarina Määttä and Satu Uusiautti

This book is a pioneering work. It discusses special characteristics of the education of Sámi people, an indigenous people living in Northern Europe. The book provides a comprehensive study of indigenous school research and special features of Sámi education including problems and opportunities that teachers and pupils confront daily. The purpose of this book is to support the realization of indigenous peoples’ education based on their own cultural premises. New, reformative pedagogical models and culturally sensitive teaching arrangements that could enhance Sámi education are the focus of the book. It is aimed at everyone who is interested in indigenous peoples’ educational conditions and is based on the authors’ research cooperation in the field of Sámi education.

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The Prospects of Ethnography at the Sámi School

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Educational research has become more and more versatile and traveled a long road from quantitative research toward various qualitative methods (Creswell, 2003; Henson et al., 2010). Ethnography has been recognized as a suitable method when the aim is to understand people and their life in the context they live (Hostetler, 2005). Given this starting point, ethnography is well applicable when doing research on indigenous peoples’ cultures, education, and life. Insti- tutions like school have come to serve as mediators between indigenous com- munities and the outside world, and they are sites in which scholars can contrib- ute to community-based research without intruding on private life. Simultane- ously, such institutions are ideal for the study of processes of, for example, self- representation, self-determination, and repatriation (Turner Strong, 2005). Ethnography as a word is derived from a Greek word “ethnos” which refers to a tribe or people and a word “graphia” which means “to write” (Opas, 2004). Thus, ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. The roots of ethnography are in anthropology (Metsämuuronen, 2006)—and often among quite exotic and re- mote research targets. Polish Bronislaw Malinowski (1984) conducted research among the habitants of the island of Trobriant between 1913 and 1916 and made the concept of “field” in ethnographic research well-known. Ethnography can be defined in many ways. According to Clifford Geertz (1973), ethnography is thick description about culture (see also James, 2001); whereas Beverley Skeggs (1999a)...

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