PEI should learn from Iceland

iceland mountA Canadian historian has suggested that the government of Prince Edward Island should look to Iceland for lessons on keeping people in the area to work and raise families.

“I’m very impressed with Iceland as a model of a dynamic, small island culture in society,’’ said Harry Baglole, former director of the Institute of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. “I think we have much to learn from it.’’

Baglole said that Icelanders often go abroad to Scandinavia and North America for education, however, they frequently return to Iceland for work when they graduate.

Diversifying the economy on PEI and strengthening the education system will help lure people to PEI and entice them to remain. “Our school system, I think, is fairly mediocre and the results are pretty much at the end of the country as far as any tests go,’’ he said. “And people seem to be relatively content with that — not happy, but certainly not up in arms. So I think we should be stressing excellence more.’’

Baglole is joined in his opinion by a professor of folklore at the University of Iceland, Gisli Sigurdsson. He spoke in Charlottetown last week on the subject of getting islanders back home.

According to Sigurdsson, Iceland has cultivated a sense of attachment with its residents to their history, language and literature. This attachment, he says, gives Icelanders a passion to live at home rather than somewhere else.

“Iceland has a good record for not losing its educated classes or generations,’’ he said. “It never became a question really that this is where you belonged and where you were attached — and (that Icelanders) couldn’t really get that kind of attachment anywhere else.’’

Baglole said that the residents of PEI could learn from that feeling. “We tend in the past to be rather apologetic,’’ he said. “We think we’re very small and we think we are a ‘have-not province’. So I think it’s a matter of provincial pride and more of a sense of independence. (We need to be) more chauvinistic about ourselves, I guess.’’

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