30 years, 30+ stories. The ETF in Central Asia. Can 102 cards foster long-term cooperation?

As part of the EU-funded DARYA (Dialogue and Action for Resourceful Youth in Central Asia) project, the European Training Foundation (ETF) is introducing a new tool, Scaffold, to support competence-based learning in Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.   

Launched in March this year, Scaffold aims to support educators to develop a professional understanding and practice of key competences and EU competence frameworks GreenComp, EntreComp, LifeComp and DigComp and their application for developing competence-based flexible approaches to teaching and learning. 

This will be done through a series of activities throughout 2024, including the training of a group of 102 Scaffold trainers, a series of 9 webinars open to educators from Central Asia and accessible in all national languages, and a regional competition. The trainer training started online on 5 April, while the week of 1519 April was fully dedicated to face-to-face training events, organised in Astana in cooperation with the Kazakh Ministry of Education.  

DARYA: a new chapter in 30 years of cooperation between Central Asia and the ETF 

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were among the first countries to work with the ETF when it was established in 1994.  

"Since then, the ETF has been at the forefront of skills development within a regional perspective. From around 2006, the ETF introduced the concept of national qualifications frameworks to the region, while from 2008 its Central Asian team worked on the development of vocational schools for lifelong learning. When the Central Asian Education Platform was established in 2012, the ETF actively contributed to it, for example by facilitating its working group on evidence-based policy making," said Samuel Cavanagh, ETF Project Manager.  

DARYAIn 2022, we launched DARYA, the first EU-funded regional project focused entirely on vocational education and training (VET) and skills development. A flagship initiative in Europe-Central Asia relations, DARYA is inspired by the 2019 EU Strategy for Central Asia as well as EU policies and tools in the sphere of education and training and youth employability.

The €10 million, five-year project, running from 2022 to 2027, aims to support skills development in the region, while creating a platform to bring the EU closer to Central Asian countries and strengthen cooperation between the five countries themselves. 

Scaffold: a set of cards to transform learning 

Developed jointly by the ETF, as part of its Creating New Learning initiative, and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, as part of its work on key competences with the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Scaffold consists of a deck of 102 cards designed to facilitate interactive and learner-centred teaching and learning activities. It aims to empower educators by providing them with adaptable resources to improve teaching effectiveness, encourage critical thinking and promote active student engagement in the learning process. 

scaffoldThe cards act as 'building blocks' to help educators creatively design learning experiences according to their goals and the needs of their learners. As a set of cards, it is portable and easy to use collaboratively. It has a fluid structure to encourage creativity and can be scaled according to user needs. Above all, it is suitable for any subject area and can be used at any level of the education system or for any type of non-formal learning.

Introducing Scaffold in Central Asia: a large-scale pilot phase 

From 15 until 17 April 2024, a group of 102 trainers one for each Scaffold card from the five Central Asian countries took part in a three-day regional training session in Astana. Nominated by their national authorities, the trainers were either experienced educators or played a role in the professional development of educators, such as the development of standards and curricula in their country. 

The first session aimed to deepen the understanding and skills of teachers and trainers in the effective use of Scaffold.  

The training session continued on 18 April for trainers from Kazakhstan to inspire and support educators in their country. A special session for educators from across Kazakhstan, open to 150 educators interested in innovative methods, concluded the Astana Scaffold week. 

"The launch of DARYA Scaffold aims to make the tool as accessible as possible. We want to reach more than 1,000 trainers by the end of the year and inspire them to actively use Scaffold in their teaching practice," said Christine Hemschemeier, ETF Content Coordinator for DARYA and Focal Point for Central Asia.  

"Scaffold is a tool for lifelong learning and we are really pleased to see that we have many nominated trainers coming from outside the VET system, from general secondary education and even adult education. It is also the first time that we have the opportunity to involve many participants coming from outside the capital cities and to work in national languages.”

An important feature of this Scaffold induction work is the piloting of a school-based approach in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with a total of 15 schools (general education and vocational) committed to working with Scaffold in a systematic way. Educators in the pilot schools will have the opportunity to collaborate and coordinate their teaching and learning approaches.   

"In many cases, new teaching approaches are introduced to individual teachers through in-service training. But it is difficult for a single educator to sustain change when working alone," said Hemschemeier. "That is why we wanted to support a school-based approach, as we expect it to have a stronger impact on both educators and students. During 2024, we want to understand whether this assumption is correct, but also what kind of support a school-based approach would need to be scaled up. If successful, we plan to open up the school-based approach to other countries." 

The first phase of this Scaffold initiative will run until April 2025. In this phase, the pilot schools will receive coaching support and will also be able to share experiences through peer learning sessions. From September 2024, a competition will be launched for educators from the region to submit the cases of innovative teaching practices they have developed based on Scaffold.  

"We want to motivate educators to work with Scaffold in their teaching practice, but also to showcase the many cases of good practice that we are sure will emerge across the region," concluded Hemschemeier.

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