Addressing Real World Issues
Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes
Chapter 6: Using GIS and spatial modelling to support school network planning in Estonia
Changes in Estonia’s demographical situation with declining enrolments in schools due to decline of pupils and a demand for new curricula are placing some schools at a critical level of enrolments and even causing closures. That has major impacts in smaller municipalities affecting the local economy and social life. In contrast, the reallocation of people and growth through urban sprawl is causing overload on schools in some suburban areas. The political sensibility of changes in the school network is further deepened by unfinished administrative reform. To have a more solid ground for school network reorganization, in June 2004 the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (EMER) initiated a project in 2004 to develop a Spatial Decision Support System for school network planning. The project was implemented in cooperation between Regio Ltd (a geospatial data company), the PRAXIS Centre for Policy Studies and geographers from the University of Tartu. A spatial database of schools and pupils was created, and a user interface for quantify evaluations about school quality from the point of view of different interest groups was developed. As a result of analysis, thematic maps and possible changes in the school network are being used by the EMER to design and implement a new policy. Developments in geo-informatics and in national information infrastructure (governmental databases) enable us to move from static to dynamic mapping. Simple Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions (generating service areas, allocating pupils, analysing supply and demand) allow visualization of ‘what if’ scenarios. A prototype of such a dynamic web page for schools of Viljandi County was created and is discussed in this chapter.
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