Currently about 6 per cent of the population is participating in adult education in Estonia. It would be a radical improvement for Estonia to raise the participation level to that of the Nordic countries, says Ene Käpp. She is also the head of the Open University Centre for Continuing Education of Tallinn University.
Extending adult education in a society presupposes a general openness towards learning. Therefore developing new attitudes towards life long learning is crucial. This is what is being attempted now and Andras has an important role to play in changing the attitudes. Andras has received 1,4 million euros for propagating adult education in Estonia for 2008-2012. (85% of the money is granted by the European Union and 15 % by the Estonian government.) Besides popularizing adult education Andras is also organizing courses for adult educators. On a smaller scale Andras has realized such programs already before.
Ene Käpp: „If we want to raise interest towards adult education, our approach needs to be innovative, new and attractive. We cannot stay with the same strategy for a long period of time. Therefore we constantly develop new methods, find initiators and expand our networks geographically.”
The study bus is one of the attractive initiatives of Andras. This bus stopped in 50 different villages and a professional consultant explained to people about adult education: that nobody is too old to learn, that the problem of information overflow is not a hindrance to learning, that one cannot be over-educated etc. During the week of adult education Andras also organized a study train where several public figures of the Estonian media were leading discussions with the passengers.
Ene Käpp: “Of course the study bus and train bring the necessary attention but in fact the most crucial changes are caused by people: the so-called “spark persons” in different regions of Estonia who create networks. These people inspire others and several of them have been awarded with the prize of the learner of the year. Andras is based on the network of these people all over Estonia. A good network is the only way we can get our message through to people.“
Innovating the system
The biggest innovation in the Baltic countries has of course been the liberation from the soviet education system. Andras has played an important role in this. The act of adult education was ratified in Estonia already in 1993, which made Estonia the first post-soviet country where such a law was ratified, and Andras was one of the initiator organizations behind this.
Andras also initiated the working out of the professional standard certificates for adult educators. These were ratified in 2003, as one of the first professional standards in the field of education in Estonia. Andras also received the right to grant adult educators’ certificates. As of today 101 people have received the certificate of adult educator in Estonia. (By coincidence 101 is also the number of parliament members in Estonia).
Innovating (or creating) the system is the qualification course of Andras for adult educators. There is no precedence of any such course in Estonia and it has not been copied and pasted from some other country either, Ene käpp says. The course consists of 160 hours of auditory and 240 hours of home work. The content is based on philosophy of life-long education, adult education methodology, information technology etc.
Learning from others
Ene Käpp considers learning from others to be equally innovative as creating new approaches is. For example the work of adult gymnasia in Estonia has become much more flexible and effective thanks to the close collaboration with Danish colleagues. A lot has been learned from institutions in Finland, Sweden as well as Slovenia. The latter is a country similar in size with Estonia and has also gone through the socialist regime. Slovenians have made extensive educational research and it turns out that Estonia is facing very similar problems. Two post-soviet countries share a lot more than just the history.
The mission of Andras is to provide the prerequisites for lifelong learning in Estonia, to include the decision makers and all other stakeholders in designing the educational environment, and to motivate learners in the learning process. Website: www.andras.ee