Education reform can also come from below

US experts are expected to help with the new initiative aimed at searching for innovative educational projects.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: SME)

The primary school in Bošany (Trenčín Region) has applied several innovative approaches to improve the education of schoolchildren. It, for example, participated in the School to Touch project within which both pupils and teachers received tablets and actively used them in the education process.

“It is a very good way of teaching as it helps teachers and also pupils to obtain the competences they need,” the school’s headmistress Jana Kontúrová told The Slovak Spectator.

Thanks to these projects, the pupils are more motivated to learn and are more skilful than their peers who have not used the up-to-date technologies, she admitted.

Searching for innovative projects and approaches to improve education at Slovak schools is now one of the aims of the Generation 3.0 initiative run by the non-governmental organisation Pontis Foundation. It plans to pick selected projects carried out by schools and non-governmental organisations via a competition, measure their impact and, if successful, spread them to schools across the country.

One of the objectives is to contribute to the big reforms in education planned by the Education Ministry as some of the already launched initiatives have resulted in positive changes to the system.

“We want to support the activities coming from below, from teachers and non-governmental organisations,” said Norbert Maur, programme manager of Pontis Foundation.

Seeking innovative approaches

In the current phase, Pontis Foundation is searching for those projects that introduce innovative approaches to education. It announced a competition in February, to which 53 projects developed by non-governmental organisations, as well as primary and secondary schools and universities were submitted.

The jury subsequently shortlisted 15 initiatives of which three will be awarded during the May 3 ceremony in Bratislava.

“We consider the award one of the catalysts of change that should guarantee the progress and put it into practice,” Maur told the press conference.

The winning projects should meet several goals set by Pontis Foundation, particularly in regard to the skills they should develop. This includes the development of curiosity and pleasure from inventing, as well as innovativeness and the skills of life-long learning, empathy, cooperation, critical thinking and the ability to distinguish manipulation, Maur explained to The Slovak Spectator.

They should also help children improve their reading literacy, skills in natural sciences, crafts and art, he added.

“We will have to prepare children for the changes that come with technological progress and changes to society,” Maur said, adding that these skills should help them to be ready for the change.

US experts to help with measurements

The awards, however, will not be the final phase for the winning projects. Pontis Foundation plans to collaborate with their creators and provide them with financial and pro bono support.

In cooperation with the US Embassy in Slovakia, it will then invite US experts who will share their experiences and know-how with measuring the impacts of the initiatives on the education system.

“Thanks to their knowledge, Pontis Foundation and its partners will be able to recognise the most promising education projects,” US Ambassador to Slovakia Adam Sterling said.

Pontis Foundation will also collaborate with the Slovak institutions active in the education sector, including the National Institute for Certified Educational Measurements (NÚCEM) and the Centre for Pedagogic Research operating at the Faculty of Pedagogy of Comenius University in Bratislava.

The result of this cooperation should include the creation of its own set of indicators to enable monitoring of the projects’ effectiveness and impact on schools. This should subsequently help spread the innovative approaches to other schools across the country, Maur said.

“The measuring will take place in 2018 to secure relevant data about the impact of these approaches to education,” he added.

Launching a public discussion

Another long-term aim of the Generation 3.0 project is to open a public discussion about education and create some kind of platform for teachers, schools and also non-governmental organisations to share their experience with innovative methods of teaching.

To achieve this, they plan to organise a Generation 3.0 Forum in September, with the aim to motivate people active in this field to meet and discuss the important topics and solve specific problems, Maur said.

“The final aim of the project is that every child and every young person in our country has the potential to fulfil their potential and have all necessary skills to do so,” said Lenka Surotchak, head of Pontis Foundation.

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