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EUDEC 2013 Conference in the Netherlands - WE CREATE THE FUTURE
This summer between the 27th of July and the 3rd of august, the annual conference is held in The Netherlands. This event has grown into a meeting of people of all ages that have one common interest “to make Democratic schools available for all people in their home country”. Last year there were about 150 different workshops, given by participants, who brought in their own themes of interest.
Why a Democratic Education Conference?
People join together to share knowledge and practice in Democratic education. Although not yet common in all countries, Democratic schools have been around since 1921 in Europe. The idea spreads in an ever-accelerating rate over Europe as a viable educational option for Democratic countries. Democratic schools will change the future landscape of education.
Meet the Scientists.
Additionally during the week well-known scientists who share their knowledge on different related topics organize lectures/workshops, a.o. Peter Gray, John Moravec, Alan Thomas, Derry Hannam.
Last year there were 350 people at the conference in Freiburg. There is space for 350 participants. Up to now 170 people already registered for this year’s event. Registrations will be open till the 19th of July. Be in time with your registration, as there is a limited number of organized sleeping places available.
Read more here: http://www.eudec.org/EUDEC2013
Dutch Court case
On 27th May, 2 parents will stand in court because they send their children to a Sudbury school in the Netherlands. Sudbury education is an accepted means of education in many countries, however in the Netherlands, parents are facing criminal prosecution. The Netherlands used to be a liberal country, but no more. The State is actively denying parents one of the most fundamental human rights; The right to choose education for their children which in is line with their religious, philosophical moral and pedagogical convictions. State pedagogy is now becoming the new norm. Hope to see you all in court: https://www.facebook.com/events/253299204809762/?fref=ts Below their motivation and request for your support.
We took the education of our children into our own hands.
Because Dutch mainstream education was inadequate to educate our children. We want good education for our kids. We want them to development their personal talents and learn to be responsible and happy adults. Above all, we are against state infringement of the free choice of education of parents.
Our children attend a Sudburyschool because the pedagogical vision matches ours.
Sudbury-education is an educational innovation that has been around for 45 years. With proven results in countries like Germany, USA, Japan, Israel, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. The point is that Sudbury education doesn’t fit the standard mold of the Dutch inspection.
Our children learn a lot at their school, every day, and they feel happy and safe.
Due to the standardized methods of Dutch inspection, the pedagogical approach of De Koers would not comply with the Compulsory Education Law. Therefore, we have to face the criminal court.
Do you sympathize with diversity and freedom of choice in education?
Are you against state infringement of free educational choice for parents?
Do you think that parents should take responsibility for the choices in upbringing and education of their children?
Let your voice be heard!
Because there are good alternatives for compulsory education. For some children they are ‘lifesaving’.. Raise your voice for the right for parents to choose which education meets the needs of their children best! If you join then please make it visible that you're AGAINST STATE INFRINGEMENT and you’re IN FAFOUR OF FREE CHOICE OF EDUCATION BY PARENTS.
Blog About Sands
I am what they call a mainstreamer and to be honest with you, I have always prided myself on going to a strict Roman Catholic girl’s school. I enjoyed putting on my kilt, tying my tie, having a crisp white shirt topped off with a shiny pair of black shoes and a blazer. The benefits for me? It made me very conscious of the way I dress, I carried myself with a certain respect, most of all it meant I had no distractions. I didn’t have to struggle every morning and wonder if I still looked as cute as I did when I set off in the morning. And yes, I’ve heard the whole argument for self expression, but I think at that age (secondary school) you should focus on expressing yourself through your work rather than what you wear.
I enjoyed the formalities of ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ but I could put that down to my culture, being Ghanaian, it is frowned upon if you address someone older than you by their first names. The reason behind this you ask?.... Respect; the idea is that anyone older than you could potentially be your mother, your father and therefore you should treat them accordingly.
Ok, so where am I going with all of this? Well, until recently, I was oblivious to the term democratic education and I was intrigued to find out exactly what it was and how it worked. I must admit from what I had gathered; the image I had in my head was something similar to a youth club; in a nut shell, teenagers chilling, kicking back and basically… not doing much.
So, I arrive at Sands and I have to admit I was a bit thrown back. That’s not to say I didn’t receive a warm welcome, because I did, but this was no school I had ever seen. Firstly we had to take our shoes off, SHOES OFF?!!!! I hear you cry, yep, shoes off. Then as I entered into the head office I saw the most amazing art work and even more to my amazement there were students just sitting down in the corner having a discussion. I know this sounds like nothing but for me this was a major big deal. Never in the history of my education did I see students and teachers just hanging out in the office having a meeting/chit chat. Nope (shakes head vigorously) Never! And here I was witnessing this with my own eyes.
Then as the day progressed I got to sit in on a council meeting run by the students and sit in on a meeting during which time they discussed what would be an appropriate punishment for a student who broke a rule. I think the best part of the day was having a chat with the students, they were very open and honest. They did admit that it is a big adjustment to move from main stream to democratic education, but it works, they are the happiest they have been and enjoy coming to school. I asked direct questions like; what happens when you they leave their school and are faced with “real world challenges” for example, in their school they can pick what subjects they would like to study; which brought up my question; ‘what do you do when you go to university and you have to do modules that you are not interested?’ Do you leave it because you don’t like it? Or look at the bigger picture and realise that it’s a means to an end? Their replies? If they liked what they are doing then they would pursue it or look into other avenues. I thought to myself; ‘hmmm fair enough, but is it really that clear cut???'
Ok, enough! So you have seen it or read it through my eyes but all jokes aside this day was a real eye opener. Before visiting their school I had my own, slightly radical perception but this school works and it works well. Yes, students address their teachers by their first names, but it’s because there is equality and respect. They don’t think this is acquired by introducing formalities which only highlights a child adult relationship.
Essentially they run their school, it is their responsibility so yes, they choose what are appropriate rules and punishments; subsequently they have no one to complain to but themselves and their peers who agreed on this rule. To me this sounds great, so often people complain about young people not taking responsibility for their actions; well here is a great example. Yes, students and visitors have to remove their shoes but there is logic behind this rule, simply that, it is their responsibility to tidy up the school at the end of the day and seeing as they have a lot of grass area and mud it makes sense to remove your shoes.
And yes the teachers and the students do interact throughout the day in fact there is no staff room, drastic yes but also honourable and genuine. This is testament to how hard the teachers work and how much time they invest in the students. This was definitely evident when I went to the art room. Literally I was blown away by the art I had seen, we are talking year 7 students at the level of year 11 students and how I hear you ask…Invested time. One of the main rules and this echoes throughout the school; ‘its ok to make a mistake’. When I think back, this is probably why the students are so comfortable and grounded. They are not afraid to make a mistake in life, they don’t expect things to be perfect, they are happy to follow their own route and, if later on in life they need to go back and take more exams… so be it. After all, more and more people go back to school later on in life and carve a whole new career.
So what have I concluded...? I enjoyed my day, I recognise that young people flourish, explore and do better in a friendly, open and honest environment. Is it always perfect? No, but what school is. Do I still love my strict catholic school up bring? Definitely, I honestly believe that if we can find a middle ground, education would be a lot more beneficial. Students will learn a lot better and the teachers would not leave the grounds feeling stressed and unfulfilled.
Kirsten works as the project coordinator and training officer at StudentVoice and is currently running the Peer Effect project which is taking place in 6 different schools around the UK.
Marathon visit to Polish start-up groups by De Kampanje representatives in April
The meetings in Poznań and elsewhere were very important for parents who still aren’t sure about democratic education. There were able to see for themselves the mature independent thinking and sense of responsibility of De Kampanje graduates Pim and Simone.
On the weekend of 19-21 April, Simone Haenen (co-founder, graduate and staff), Pim Monquil (graduate) and Peter Hartkamp (co-founder and staff) of de Kampanje school in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, visited start-up groups in three Polish cities on the invitation of Michał Jankowski. The intensive programme saw them take part in 4 meetings in 3 cities.
On Friday evening, they met with the Trampolina School start-up group in Poznań, to answer specific questions about setting up and running a democratic school.
That was followed by a series of three meetings with parents: beginning in Warsaw on Saturday morning, followed by Łódź on Saturday afternoon, and finishing up the marathon back in Poznań on Sunday morning, with the Dutch team heading back to Holland after lunch.
The questions we were asked on democratic education were largely the same as those asked in other countries and cultures. From denial with some: ‘This is not possible’, to wondering ‘How is this possible?’ to ‘How does it work?’ and ‘What are the results?’ In my perception, the questions, including the critical ones, showed great interest in the concept of democratic education as a viable alternation to regular education.
We reported in the newsletter some time ago that interest in democratic education in Poland is growing. It’s fair to say that now it’s mushrooming. Various groups of parents and teachers in three major Polish cities (Poznań, Łódź and Warsaw) are planning to open democratic schools this autumn, and interest is being shown in other major cities, such as Krakow.
Just to go back in time, Ola Matyska from Łódź attended the EUDEC founding meeting and the conference in Leipzig in 2008. She has been running her democratic nursery almost single-handedly since 2009. She has now found a building for her school and 20 children are pretty certain to join the first year in September of this year. Most of the children are moving straight from the nursery, where they have been living democracy for from between 1 to 4 years.
The scariest thing for parents is trusting and letting go.
Michał Jankowski, who attended the Freiburg EUDEC Conference last year, and his team have been working tirelessly to found a school in Poznań, but also importantly to spread awareness about the democratic education movement as widely as possible throughout Poland. Michał is very adept at using the full range of communication media available: newspapers and TV, websites and social media. He has set up the website edukacjademokratyczna.pl to provide general information about democratic education, he is organising regular meetings in Poznań for interested people, and he is forging ahead with founding Trampolina school.
I met a few people who only had learned about democratic education a few weeks before and who stated that it had already changed their lives and that they definitively wanted their children to attend a democratic school, or even to start a democratic school for their children, especially after having seen the two graduates from De Kampanje.
The Polish founding groups have to comply with the realities of the Polish legal system. Schools in Poland have to follow the Polish National Curriculum, which means a set range of subjects are taught, and students have to pass tests in each subject twice a year at the end of each semester.
Each of the Polish founding groups is using the same solution. It works like this. Homeschooling is legal in Poland. Homeschooled children have to be registered at a school and take their tests at that school but are free to learn the material and prepare themselves in their own way. So the Polish founding groups create and offer a democratic community and learning environment which is the school in practice, but not in legal terms. And the students are actually registered at an “official” school where they take their annual tests, but which does not interfere with how they spend their time.
In some cases the democratic schools will apply to found schools officially and then apply to gain the status of “experimental school” if they can fufill the complicated criteria laid down by the Ministry of Education. Once a school gains that status, students would then be official students at their own school and not have to be registered as students elsewhere. And the school can be run according to a more radical model of education.
It’s amazing to see how people across Europe think likewise on the fact that our education system is outdated, which instils a lot of hope for the future in me.
Polish start-up groups
Łódź, Przyjazna Szkoła, www.przyjaznaszkola.org (EUDEC member start-up group)
Poznań, Trampolina, www.trampolina.szkola.pl (EUDEC member start-up group)
Warsaw, Wolna Szkoła, www.odpowiedzialnaszkola.pl (EUDEC member start-up group)
Warsaw, Granada Free School, www.ed.org.pl (EUDEC member start-up group)
Warsaw, Democratic Free School, www.bullerbyn.pl
New French Democratic School on its way...
It already has a name, a quite poetic one : « Ecole Démocratique La Croisée des Chemins » (Crossroads Democratic School). It gathers people around Dijon every three weeks. Its organisation has been thought over, mainly inspired by Sudbury Schools.
- The school will accept students from 4 to 19 years old.
- It's already a EUDEC member.
- The plan is to open this school in September 2013.
Reading its future organization, you could think this project has been going on for years. Actually it only really started in February 2012. Fleur Mathet-Jolly was then thinking of creating a school for her children, after one of them had a bad experience in a Waldorf school near Paris. Fleur and her husband have always left the choice of going or not going to a school to their three children, but they also wish they had a social life meeting people from outside the family. So when they got back to Bourgogne, they started this project, that soon interested enough people to start working on the procedure of creating a school. They went through all the legal steps. . One problem though, and not a trifling one : they are still looking for a place. So they're now thinking of actually building a new structure...
L'Ecole Démocratique La Croisée des Chemins is currently recruiting its staff members and volunteers are welcome to give a bit of time too.
Good luck to them !
If you're interested in learning more about it and if you can read French, you can check their website : http://ecoledelacroiseedeschemins.fr
The Element -How finding your passion changes everything-
by Ken Robinson
To those who don't know anything about Ken Robinson yet, this book is a good way to start. Finding the Element will make you understand the ideas of the British thinker who, through the years, developped a real philosophy about education that he's tried to spread in conferences all over the world.
Through various life stories of artists, scientists, economists such as Paul Mc Cartney, Terence Tao or Paul Samuelson, Ken Robinson clarifies his idea of what he calls « the Element », then the book focuses on a method or at least hints to find your own element.
The Element is « the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion. » This element is the center of all Robinson's philosophy. It all starts from here. Individuals need to recognise their own talent, their own abilities and believe in them.
To do so, some clichés have to be fought. There isn't only one kind of intelligence, every human being is creative.
Once you find your element, you have to find your tribe. This is an interesting point. Ken Robinson emphasizes the fact that you can't just find your element and live happily ever after on your own. You have to feel connected to circles where your element can echo.
As above all, Robinson considers finding your element as a matter of « human growth and development. »
Societies have to think differently, if they want to keep on inhabiting this earth. Lots of today's challenges need to be faced by creative, imaginative people.
The only way things could change is of course through education. If Education is present all through the book. Robinson dedicates a whole chapter to the need of reforming education.
The whole chapter seems to be an ad for EUDEC aims. Here is an example :
« The curriculum should be personalized. Learning happens in the minds and souls of individuals (…) The current process of education do not take account of individual learning styles and talents. In that way, they offend the principle of distinctiveness. »
This book is life affirming. While and after reading, you keep on thinking that human possibilities are infinite and you just dream of a world where such a statement could be taken seriously and where education could become « elemental ».
EUCIS-LLL Annual Conference “Rethinking Learning”
Smart vocabulary, ideological slogans, loud declarations and poor links with practice – it is not surprising European (or any other) policies are just so hardly likable. And yet they are something to bear in mind if we want to be “on the same page” with the rest of the Europe.
For those of you who are not so much into EU educational policies, some quick highlights from one of the latter events on the subject.
May 14th the EUCIS-LLL Annual Conference “Rethinking Learning” took part in Lithuanian capital Vilnius, and I was the one proudly representing EUDEC between more than 100 participants from all over the Europe. Special thanks to EUDEC for trusting young members!
To be frank, usually I find those events kind of boring, yet this one for me personally was an opportunity to go deeper into the regional challenges that partly explain the situation we face as a Democratic Education Community.
The conference mainly focused on the recent (last November 2012) release of European strategy on „Rethinking Education“ which reflects the political neccesity to give a new conceptual framework to emerging key challanges in education and training.
Two important messages were addressed.
First, according to European Commission, emerging key challenge in education and educational priority of the priorities by 2020 – delivering the right skills for employment (jobs & growth). On political level economic aspects prevail.
Second, EUCIS-LLL stressed the following: we have to be very careful in drawing such a narrow purpose of education: Europeans must not only acquire and update specific job-related skills but also develop the transversal competences that will enable them to manage change and become true lifelong learners.
More comments on “Rethinking Education”:
X the lifelong learning approach is weak: main focus is on formal education while non formal and informal learning and its providers (such as civil society organizations) are not acknowledged as key actors of social innovation.
X assessment, recognition and validation of skills (shift from assessment of facts to assessments of competences) in all educational settings is needed to move forward. Emphasis on learning outcomes – underlined but not clearly stated. Recommendation: create a European Area of Skills and Qualifications.
X wider approach to key competences is needed: valuing skills for specific job use and not for their specific value is a tremendous loss of efficiency and impact (f. e. exaggerated focus on entrepreneurial skills as such. What are entrepreneurial skills if not transversal competences such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communication, creativity and innovation sills?)
X wider access to learning (for those who do not have a sufficient level of basic skills) is needed in order to improve economies, social cohesion and participation; access to learning via distance learning or e-learning.
X strong partnership for lifelong learning skill development needed: debates at national and local levels on European cooperation in education and training (EUCIS-LLL research on the feasibility setting up National Stakeholders’ Forums).
X investment in different education and training sectors: warning against cutting operating support to European civil society organizations.
X recommendation to clarify what is the European added value of this initiative.
There were four thematic workshops on active citizenship, entrepreneurship skills, digital competences and learning to learn.
This is (more or less) what was discussed during the conference. Full reports, presentations and speeches will be posted on EUCIS-LLL website in the nearest future, so you can make your own findings. Before that – here are some of my personal insights on what was said as far as it concerns democratic education.
I won’t go into detail, but it was interesting to feel the overall atmosphere in the field. I would say, all the shared ideas (at least most of them) and outcomes of the conference was positive, but just at the very beginning of the road to the education and learning as EUDEC understands it. For me the missing link was learning atmosphere...
My very feeling was that there’s a big miscommunication/misinterpretation between participants in terms of active citizenship, key competences, overall goals of education and school’s role in this. Very good intentions to work for the better, just “better” is something everyone understands in their own way;) In this context, I remembered one quote heard from my colleague recently: A camel is a horse designed by a committee.
No reason to question if this strategy is a step forward in building a modern educational strategy for Europe (there wasn’t any of a kind before), but if we feel democratic education is an answer to most of the mentioned challenges, as a Community we should step up for our ideas and be proactive in sharing our practises.
Rethinking education: interpretations on European level
Donata Norkiene, School of Success, Lithuania, Vilnius
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