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Month: November 2018

Vocational Skills for the Future – European event highlights

The European Commission organised its third European Vocational Skills Week between 5 and 9 November 2018. It is a group of hundreds of local events all over Europe to highlight the value and importance of vocational skills and vocational training – both initial and continuous. The flagship event of the week is always a conference offering a great networking opportunity for various stakeholders. While the first two such conferences took place in Brussels, this year the Austrian Presidency of the EU started a new tradition by offering to organise it in Vienna. Next October the central events will take place in Helsinki under the Finnish Presidency. Parents International signed its pledge for the European Alliance for Apprenticeships during the event in a beautiful public ceremony, and we immediately started discussions with VET providers to fulfil our pledge.

The most important part of the Vienna events was a conference on the future of skills and vocational training, based on an ongoing project steered by CEDEFOP, the EU’s institution for vocational training development. Research results on the years 1995-2015 show that popularity of vocational training as well as quality and enrolment rates are still very different in various parts of Europe. While the general aim would be to both ensure/increase quality and define vocational pathways as a first choice, there are several unknown and debateable elements that could have a major effect on the future of the sector.

There is a need to find balance between immediate and future labour market needs as well as between specific and general skills and competences in VET (also for well-being and active participation).  Vocational training is becoming real lifelong learning. Some skills are acquired early in life, some during formal secondary education, more and more in different forms of tertiary formal education, but also through non-formal provisions be it at the workplace or by an external provider.

As it happens during the VET Skills Week, there is a need to involve all main stakeholders in designing the future. Employers and trade unions as well as the providers and their teachers/trainers are more or less always part of these discussion, but it is equally important to listen to the voice of trainees and to involve the parents in it.

The frame for discussions has been set by the Director of UNESCO-UNEVOC, Shyamal Majumdar who clearly made the case for strong and modern VET for achieving Sustainable Development Goals, and not only SDG4 on Education. He also reminded participants that VET needs to be put in a global perspectives as both skills and labour market are global. Vocational training needs to be inclusive, have a lifelong learning approach (school to work to school…) and become greener. Quality and innovation are key when discussing the modernisation of vocational training. He also forecast a major trend change in higher education by an increase of the share and attractiveness of universities of applied sciences.

In the Vienna conference the voice of learners was strongly raised by the European Apprentice Network. They clearly demanded a holistic approach, not to have the needs of the labour market in mind, but also the needs of learners and human beings. He recalled that many young people who chose higher education pathways are already disappointed – or take a vocational pathway after receiving their degree in parents’ experience. At the same time for initial VET to be an equally or more attractive path they demanded policy to make immediate and short-term commitments to solve quality issues in vocational training, to make mobility possible for all, to ensure the voice of learners and apprentices is heard, to make further education fully accessible for VET students and create good learning conditions. Trade unions also highlighted the need to ensure quality employment conditions.

EAfA pledge photo

The European Alliance for Apprenticeships celebrated its 5th anniversary during the conference. It was also an opportunity for new member to sign their pledges, and Parents International did so in a nice ceremony. We have promised to develop, pilot and implement training for teachers and trainers for making the Guidelines for Parental Involvement in VET and Apprenticeships a reality in Europe, and also to support VET providers with communication tools and skills to involve parents from before enrolment. After signing the pledge, we also had a separate meeting with two major VET provider organisations, EUproVET and EVBB, as well as the European Commission to start this work.

Open Schools for Intercultural Learning

The 9th Forum on Intercultural Learning and Exchange took place in Brussels, Belgium at the European Economic and Social Committee on 24-27 October. It was hosted by the European Federation for Intercultural Learning, and funded by Fondazione Intercultura and the Erasmus+ programme. It focused on the topic of Intercultural Learning: a whole school approach and showcased the results of Erasmus+ projects such as Intercultural learning for pupils and teachers, Open Schools for Open Societies and Open School Doors. The aim was to link project outcomes and tools developed  to the latest policy developments at the level of the European Union, Council of Europe, OECD and UNESCO.

The Forum was building on the outcomes of the previous edition which tackled the theoretical aspects of intercultural training of teachers. The event made it possible for a selected group of about 60 researchers, policy makers, teachers, headmasters and educators to look how to expand intercultural learning to all actors involved in the school, in an integrated approach.

Key questions discussed at the Forum:

  • What are the elements of a whole school approach to ICL
  • What are some examples?
  • Who are the various stakeholders involved and what are their roles?
  • What preparation is needed for teachers?
  • What is the role of an exchange program?
  • What assessment system can be used?

Lack of relevance of school for students was identified as a major issue to tackle and the reason for transforming education. Participants agreed that curiosity and trust are key to being able to involve community. For this, school needs to become a learning organisation. School heads as well as other members of leadership – and to a certain extent all educators – need to be committed and also to acquire change management skills to succeed. Non-traditional school achievements need to be valued and highlighted. It is necessary to open school doors for the community to enter the school, but also for teachers to go out and meet parents and children outside of school.

Opening up schools is the only promising solution for the necessary transformation for 21st century learning, but it is currently endangered by some national and European trends to exclude local communities, even stakeholders from the school under often false pretences of security.

Several exciting examples were showcased to inspire participants, eg.:

  • Netherlands – ‘Broad Schools’ and ‘House of Children’
  • Hungary – a community involvement school from Tatabánya
  • USA – inviting external speakers from the community, teachers becoming more visible at local level by attending events
  • Ireland – the possibility of a transition year that makes it possible for young people to do community work or go abroad
  • European Schools as a means of intercultural learning, preserving the right to mother tongue and building mutual understanding

Transforming education on a global scale – Congress in Naples, Italy

Maestri di Strada hosted the First Global Congress of Educational Transformation between 29 and 31 October 2018 in Naples, Italy. Researchers and practitioners came together from all over the world to discuss the needs and possibilities to transform education to become more humane, more holistic and thus better for both individual learners and society. Parents International was invited to explore the role of parents as educators and learners in the transformation process as well as new ways of education. We have shared our vision in the form of a plenary keynote on parents as primary educators, caregivers, gatekeepers and scaffolders to cover the thematic axis of Educational Communities and Complex Integral Learning.

The congress considered education as a complex and continuous process aimed to support the development of people and the growth of human relationships, which constitute the foundation of society. This holistic definition of education concerns the intellectual, emotional, affective, bodily, motor, social, aesthetic, moral and political development of people, starting from the culture and the rules of coexistence of the contexts to which they belong, and which are in continuous transformation. Education can allow everyone to participate actively in this transformation, which involves the lives of individuals and the future of humanity.

The contemporary world is traversed by rapid and profound changes of the material and psychic structures of communal life, which challenge the structural and cultural assumptions of education as it is traditionally understood in the Western educational system: in particular, the value attributed to intergenerational transmission and to civil coexistence, the role of beauty and wonder, the space of hope and of the project for a better future have changed.

The crisis of these foundations of education also fully affects the educational institution, which is crossed by radical contradictions and profound malaise, becoming increasingly isolated within a world that no longer recognizes the social value of the mission that was entrusted to them. However, there has been an increase all around the world of practices and educational methodologies that prove to be locally effective and innovative.

Organisers and participants agreed that the time has come for an educational transformation with a broad scientific and narrative foundation, capable of imposing itself on the attention of individuals, communities, institutions and societies, which otherwise risk responding only to economic and technical logics: a transformation carried out in order to preserve, and not dissipate, the best of humanity. Teachers and other educators – including parents – must be given back a strong social mandate, on the basis of the awareness that education is the place where the social contract is constantly renewed, and in which one decides, as Hannah Arendt wrote, “whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable”.

The intent was to foster an extended dialogue and cooperation by encouraging the encounter between continents and disciplines, creating a space for the exchange of different experiences, researches and educational reflections. Care, beauty and dreams appear to the organisers as the first foundations for a possible change of education and school: the care of the Self and of human relationships, the research and the construction of beauty even in the most difficult contexts and situations, the capacity to dream together and aspire to a better world. Because, as Danilo Dolci wrote, education is carried out “dreaming others as they are not now: everybody grows only if dreamed about”.

The aims of the congress were:

  • To open spaces of shared reflection, for the exchange and discussion of ideas, activities and projects, between people, groups and institutions interested in overcoming the conventional paradigms of education.
  • To bring forward and analyse innovative educational proposals in order to promote creative learning, cooperative work, open and respectful dialogue, pacific and inclusive coexistence.
  • To generate initiatives for the systematisation of concepts, methodologies and psycho-pedagogical and didactic techniques in order to stimulate the passion for knowledge of students and teachers, extra-institution together with a greater social engagement.
  • To promote research and innovative experiences inter and trans-subject in order to change the educational programmes of the institutions.
  • To support interculturalism through the valorisation of all contributions of the people of the world.

The organisers also proposed to continue dialogue and collaboration until the next Global Congress for Educational Transformation to be held in South America in the form of a professional network that Parents International is happy to join.

The beautiful logo of the congress, The Star Archer was designed by Riccardo Dalisi. It refers to Dante’s Divine Comedy:

“E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle”. [“And thus we came out to see the stars again”] (Dante, Inferno, XXXIV, 139)

November: Global Month to combat the dramatic decline in play

This November, IKEA, The LEGO FoundationUnilever’s Dirt is Good brands and National Geographic have joined forces as the Real Play Coalition with their shared believe in the value of play to bring us the Global Month of Play! The Global Month of Play is a month-long celebration that provides more opportunities for children to play at home, at school and in the community. Together, the Real Play Coalition Global Month of Play activities will reach nearly 2.5 million children in more than 100 countries and activities will take place in almost 20,000 classrooms.

Additionally, the Real Play Coalition is announcing its development of the world’s first-ever Play Gap Report, created in partnership with University Collect London (UCL). The Play Gap Report will be a global study which will help pinpoint the gaps in access to quality play between genders and different socio-economic groups among more than 40 countries. It will be created in partnership with University College London (UCL). The key results will be announced in early 2019, which will fuel future Real Play Coalition programmes.

To inspire parents, guardians, teachers and children alike to play, the Real Play Coalition launched a brand-new website containing 150 games and activities The play catalogue will also be available on the Real Play Coalition App that will be launching soon.

Learn about what the partners are doing:

IKEA: Let’s Play For Change

Designed by children, for children, the 2018 SAGOSKATT collection is the result of the annual IKEA soft toy drawing competition. This sees creative kids from all around the world draw the soft toy of their dreams, with the six most unique drawings turned into real soft toys sold at IKEA stores during 2019. The full purchase price of each toy will be donated to campaigns supporting children’s rights to play and develop. Follow all IKEA activity throughout the Global Month of Play through #letsplayforchange.

The LEGO Foundation: World Children’s Day

UNICEF’s Universal Children’s Day on November 20th marks the day when the most widely ratified human right treaty in history, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was adopted. It is a global day of action for children, by children, where leaders are held to account on their promises to children.

Throughout November, The LEGO Foundation and the LEGO Group will support this celebration through Build the Change events, where children in select schools in Mexico, the UK, China, South Africa and Denmark have been invited to build their dream school. As an outcome, The LEGO Foundation will collate and document a selection of insights from the activation and hand them to world leaders at the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2019. Follow activities during the Global Month of Play through #worldchildrensday

Unilever’s Dirt is Good: Outdoor Classroom Day

Closely related to PlayFutures Exploration 6: Green, blue spaces, Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to inspire and celebrate outdoor learning and play, led by NGO Project Dirt. Yesterday, on November 1st, thousands of schools around the world will took lessons outside to prioritise playtime, sending a message of how learning outside of the classroom engages and excites children in spectacular ways. In 2018 alone, over 2.5M children and 23.000 schools will have joined this movement. Learn more on

National Geographic: Play Made Me This Way

On Monday November 5th National Geographic will be launching a fascinating series of videos called Play Made Me This Way, featuring the stories of a number of very different individuals. The videos will reveal how play during the formative years have had a life-changing impact on who they grew up to be, and are making sure their own children have the same quality and time available to play. The first video can be watched on National Geographic and Real Play Coalition social media channels. #PlayMadeMeThisWay.

The world is invited to reappraise play as the rocket fuel children need to boost their skill development so let’s do this!

Keep an eye on updates via www.realplaycoalition.comFacebookInstagramTwitterand Pinterest.

Maximise your play this November!