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Month: October 2018

Strengthening relations with partners in Israel

Parental involvement is currently in the limelight in Israel. The education research institution Mahut held the first national conference on parent-teacher relationships entitled “Intersecting perspectives and opening new horizons“. Parents International contributed by inspirations primary related to parental involvement and child participation as active citizenship. The event was a good opportunity to visit schools and teacher training centres as well to organise meetings with leaders of the national parent advocacy organisation.

The Mahut conference was organised with the goal of encouraging collaborations between scholars, practitioners, policy makers, students, who come from different disciplinary perspectives and/or methodological approaches but examine similar or related issues/topics in the field, and exploring assumptions and implications of parental involvement in pre-schools, elementary and high schools. In the opening session the Director General of the Ministry of Education, Shmuel Abuav made a clear statement that parental involvement is a highly important element in schools. Eyal Ben Jehuda Baum, the president of Forum of School Parents however highlighted that legislation does not yet reflect this priority. This is one of the areas where Parents International could offer expertise as well as research results to support them in fighting their case.

The majority of parent leaders at national level in Israel are currently lawyers, and it is an uncomfortable situation for many professional educators. It may be a good start, as the first step must be the necessary legislative framework, but there was mutual understanding that it also needs parallel actions to prepare both teachers in schools and parents for making involvement a reality not only a formal legal requirement as it is the case in many countries. Parents International offered multiplier trainings, too, to also foster this using previous experiences in other country contexts.

The largest chain of schools, AMIT invited us to their teacher training center GOGYA. It was primarily established to promote collaborative learning and new pedagogies, and they have recently realised how important it is to include parental involvement/engagement in their programme. They are doing an amazing job using traditional school buildings and transforming them with relatively little effort into 21st century learning spaces. We are exited to start a collaboration with them.

We also had the opportunity to prepare future collaboration in the North of Israel with the University of Haifa and some local municipalities and to visit a Kibbutz School near BeerSheva.

Probably the most interesting outcome of the visit is that Israel seems to suffer less from helicopter parenting that other countries, children are more independent and self-reliant, just like it was the case before in other countries. Probably a driving factor for this is compulsory military service. While for me it is sad to see hundreds of young people in uniform, it is good to see so many confident children and parents who let them grow up.

Growing Together: European Adult Learning Conference in Budapest

We were invited to represent parents as an important stakeholder group – both lifelong learners and lifelong educators – at a major conference on the future of adult learning in Europe on 15/16 October 2018. It was organised by the European Commission and EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe) and brought together about 230 policy makers, educators and researchers from all European countries, way beyond the EU. From the parents’ perspective the highlight of the conference was the emphasis on the role schools should play in involving local communities in adult education and the importance of working with parents for this.

The event focused on two main topics, the present and future of adult learning in Europe and the role of the electronic platform EPALE can play in fostering participation. In a stocktaking presentation Dana Bachman, the responsible Head of Unit at the European Commission showed statistics and inspiring practices from some European countries. The statistics on adult learning participation stirred the audience and it was discussed in great detail in workshops later. It seems that different countries implement different methodologies to measure participation and some countries only included formal provisions. There was an agreement that there is a need to acknowledge and include non-formal and informal learning, the latter being the most difficult to detect.

Parents organisation has long advocated for a new, community learning center approach to school buildings, and thus we were very happy to see that two of the few inspiring practices presented by the European Commission were this can be detected. One is a practice from Estonia where schools actively reach out to parents to promote adult learning opportunities, the other is from Poland where school infrastructure is used to cover learning provisions needs in the local community.

The most interesting and forward-looking part of the conference was the discussion on future European policy on adult learning. This will only inform the next governance of the EU after the EU elections in May as the outgoing European Commission will not initiate anything new. They will then design European education policy for the period after 2020, hopefully in line with the need to reach Sustainable Development Goals by 2035.

The European Union has little jurisdiction in this field, and participants tried to collect ideas with this in view. The EU could do a lot to make information available on differences and similarities between national systems, this was not questioned by anybody. There is a need to act together to overcome the existing stigma linked to adult learning in many countries. Reflecting on the above-mentioned statistics, participants also called the EU to act in order to make learning visible. Funding should be available to invest more in competence building of educators – including parents in our view.

An important step would be to have a holistic, lifelong learning approach, to valorise learning regardless the place and form it takes. Today, even if we consider non-formal and informal provisions for adult learning, there are some forms that are not under the same umbrella, often with a higher value in the eyes of many in the case of higher education and vocational education. By implementing a consistent lifelong learning approach and including all forms of learning in it would be the way to the necessary valorisation.

The upcoming Erasmus+ programme for the period of 2021-2029 would be the necessary tool used by the EU by also implementing a cross-sectoral, holistic, lifelong learning programme that the current, 2014-2020 programme promised but has failed to achieve. EPALE is an important tool to support necessary developments, however, making everything available in national languages would be key. Today the platform is richest in English.

You can watch recordings of the conference livestream following this link: