Adult Educators Learning


Adult Educators Learning - Estonian Popular Education League offering 2-year training programs for adult educators

The 16 of June was a festive day for the Estonian Popular Education League - the first 16 adult educators graduated from 2-year training program. New certificate owners include teachers for adult learners, organisers of training programmes and community activity managers from the Movement of Estonian Village and Small Towns. The curriculum for the course was compiled by Nordic and Baltic programme for mature student mentoring-Learning4Sharing. The next class will commence the course in October this year.

What was on the program?

To put it literally, the participants learned to be "masters"- teachers who can inspire other teachers, said Ivo Eesmaa, the chairman of Estonian Popular Education League. But this "master course" proved rather complex, he added. The curriculum involved several social science disciplines such as philosophies and sociology of education, social psychology etc. that were never taught in Estonia during the Soviet times. These subjects were new to middle-aged participants. As adult educators will be the "engine" of local education activities in many municipalities, they must understand the workings of society. However, in the Soviet Union, the above mentioned social science disciplines were replaced by the dogmas of "scientific communism". Even the fact that marketing was taught on the master course came as a surprise to some students. In the Soviet Union, marketing of training programs was unnecessary, as people were forced to participate. Some of the more familiar academic subjects covered in curriculum were developmental and personality psychology, the personality of teacher and professional conduct, the teacher as a citizen.

Ivo Eesmaa
Solidarity and dialogue is the core of popular education, Chairman of the Estonian Popular Education League Ivo Eesmaa says

Students were marked for 16 collections, plenty of homework and analyses of their own teaching practice based on Walter Leirman's book "Four Cultures of Education". It made the course all the more difficult that it was organised in five 3-day study sessions over the course of two years and most participants attended the course while working full time. There was also one 5-day summer camp. Due to these difficulties, only 16 of the initial 26 participants finished the course. In Estonia this is still considered quite a successful result. However, the organisers of the master course have had discussions after the end of the course regarding possible improvement of the schedules and other aspects of the course.

What should be the academic standards?

One debate occurred around the essential reading requirement- Walter Leirman's "Four Cultures of Education". Some course participants felt it was too difficult. It was asked whether the master class ought to have a minimum requirements level that everyone must fulfil. And would those for whom this level proves too difficult need to leave the master class? One graduate declared that no theoretical books were necessary, that lectures and seminars were sufficient. Others found that Leimer's book gave them many ideas and that teacher-practitioner would benefit from a thorough analysis of at least one theoretical book during this course. It was concluded that no one must be put off by studying yet the academic standards must be maintained. If the book appears obscure or not engaging for some learners, the key concepts may be discussed with the entire group beforehand, so that the "code" of the book would become more comprehensible. The rest should just follow…


Participants complained about unequal previous qualifications in the group. For some the social science course seemed too difficult, for some too easy, and for some just right. A solution to this problem proved to be an emphasis on group discussions, also on the Internet. In this way some learners can share their knowledge and others ask for clarification from them. This also creates cohesion in the group and helps to deepen the knowledge attained. For example, the philosophy of education course would have been too abstract without the discussions. Learners themselves noted that thanks to the discussions the history of education turned out to be very interesting to them. Unfortunately the discussions were not as lively on the Internet. When the subject is new a typical Estonian is afraid to make mistakes and prefers not to express her opinions in public.

Lii Kohari
Lii Kohari, activist in the Movement of Estonian Villages and Small Towns on the island of Hiiumaa receiving her diploma

The organizers of the course agreed with the propositions of the participants. There should be more discussions and group work. This helps the group members get to know each other, attain common experiences, and even set common goals. "Solidarity and dialogue is the core of popular education", Ivo Eesmaa said.

Role or Subject

Is a master class meant for studying a subject or rather a role, was another question arising during the course. The curators of the program were at the opinion that a master class should help the adult educator deal with his role – to become a master. For this reason the subject matter in the program was kept at the minimum, consisting only of the necessary for a better accomplishment of the role of an adult educator. On the other hand participants expressed the wish for at least one subject in the course to be covered systematically and in greater detail (the so called “difficult book”). In general the course graduates claimed that the role-focussed program was exactly what was needed and expected from the master class.

The Course Fee

The fee for participation in the master class was 10 800 EEK. Considering the standard of living in Estonia this is not a small amount (ca two months salary). But for the majority of the participants half of the sum was paid by their employer. The ESTONIAN POPULAR EDUCATION LEAGUE was also supported by the Ministry of Education and Science and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Text and photos by Raivo Juurak, English translation by Krõõt Juurak.