New Challenge for Estonian Non-formal Education

 

 

From 2008-2011 The Estonian Non-formal Adult Education Association (ENAEA) will get four million Euros from the European Social Fund. This means that during the four years there will be three times more financial resources than until now. “This is a big challenge for us. We have to show that we can realize the projects that we have been postponing because of lack of money”, Tiina Jääger the program manager of ENAEA says.

What will you do with the money?
Tiina Jääger: „We have given a promise that 40 000 people will learn in our educational centres during the four years, besides that we will renew our study programs, strengthen our networks of educational centres etc. These are ambitious plans but on the other hand without ambition there can be no development.”

Who did you give the promises to?
“First of all this promise is to ourselves but also to the Ministry of Education. Until 2008 the Ministry of Education granted us yearly activity support and for this we were not obliged to give concrete promises other than continuing our activity. But from 2008 ENAEA is realizing a 4-year state program „Adult learning in non formal adult education centres“. This program has concrete tasks and goals and the 4 million Euros is meant for reaching those goals.”

No competitors

This type of funding isn’t very common.
“I recently attended the meeting of Baltic-Nordic non-formal education organisations. Our colleagues in Latvia and Lithuania said that they have no state programs for non-formal education.”

What about your competitors?
“At the moment there are no serious competitors in Estonia. ENAEA is the only association that has a network of educational centres covering the whole country and this is important for realizing a state program.”

Is a state program acceptable for non-formal education?
“Very much so - because the content was designed in collaboration with ENAEA. We organized four thorough brainstorming sessions with the leaders of our 48 educational centres and based our proposal for the ministry on the suggestions that came up in the sessions. The ministry on its side set the goal of 40 000 learners and most of the money will be invested into reaching this goal.”

What are you mainly teaching?
“The money comes from the European Social Fund and therefore the pressure towards vocational training is higher but our strategies are based on the 8 basic competencies “Life Long Learning key competencies” of the European Parliament. The Ministry of Education agreed that these eight competencies will not be reached with vocational training only. But we do not offer for instance drawing and painting courses in the frame of this program either. Art courses are still available but learners have to pay for it by themselves. About 25% of our courses should remain chargeable.
Estonian language courses are most demanded right now. A lot of Russian people living in Estonia want to learn Estonian and we have set more resources into Estonian language education. Second-largest demand is for computer courses. Over middle-aged people are especially interested in this. We will set up a computer class with laptops in at least one educational centre per county. Laptops have proven to be most efficient also because they allow us to go to the learners, to their workplace, to cultural centres etc.”

Helping to find one’s own choice

What do you plan to do with the money that is left over from direct educational activities?
“This will mostly be for the training and development of educators themselves. For example learning how to create outcome based study programs. Leaders of educational centres will analyse the study programs registered in the ministry of education and discuss how every educational centre can change their own programs from content-based into outcome-based.
Secondly the professional preparedness of educators. We describe in detail what an educator who has completed this course will know, his or her skills and competencies. The aim is that each educator would be able to pass the adult educator’s qualification exam. And thirdly there will be counselling training. Learners often ask us for advice about what they should learn, which profession they should acquire etc. An educator who knows how to counsel will not give direct suggestions but helps the learner find their own choice.
Fourthly we teach directors of educational centres how to find new learners’ target groups and which are the best methods for that. One new target group is younger people who are open to learning via the Internet.
We also plan to collaborate with adult gymnasiums. Basically the idea is that we find people who want to learn, give them a preparatory course and after that the adult gymnasium will continue their education. One gymnasium has already agreed to participate in this collaboration project. We also intend to continue publishing the series of pedagogical books.”

What have you achieved during the first year?
“We have successfully launched the program and already offered training to 5 000 people. This gives us reason to believe that in 4 years we will reach the magical number of 40 000 adult learners.”

What about after these 4 years when the 4 million Euros of the Social Fund has been used, will everything stop?
“No! The support from the European Social Fund helps us to become stronger. In 2004 the state funding was suddenly lowered by 75% but none of our educational centres had to close down. The numbers of learners actually increased. At that time vocational retraining became a priority, as it is the easiest course to earn money with. At the moment the Estonian Labour Market Board offers most of the vocational courses.”

LINK:
Estonian Non-formal Adult Education Association (ENAEA)