Innovative, open-minded teachers are pivotal to learning environments that are creative and inclusive. Teachers who are able to cultivate and nurture young people with skills and self-efficacy will help them find solutions to today’s challenges and create a prosperous and more sustainable futu...
Innovative, open-minded teachers are pivotal to learning environments that are creative and inclusive. Teachers who are able to cultivate and nurture young people with skills and self-efficacy will help them find solutions to today’s challenges and create a prosperous and more sustainable future for tomorrow. Updated, relevant and caring education and learning systems can have an increased impact when delivered by teachers who have been supported to renew their own knowledge and enhance their expertise and competences. Valuing teachers and providing them with the right tools is therefore an essential part of the education and training equation.
The European Commission has set out a vision for a European Education Area by 2025–30 which focuses on teachers, as well as quality education, inclusion and gender equality, green and digital transitions, and higher education, all contributors to building a stronger Europe in the world.
Working in the EU’s neighbouring regions with a wide range of stakeholders (including policy-makers, practitioners and actors from the public, private and civic spheres), the ETF is engaged in developing teaching and learning, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Across our partner regions – Western Balkans and Turkey, Eastern Partnership, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, Central Asia, and more recently sub-Saharan Africa – our actions target the continuing professional development of teachers and trainers, particularly those in the vocational sector. In addition, they aim to promote innovation in teaching and learning, ensuring more inclusive and equitable education and training systems overall.
Specifically, the ETF’s Creating New Learning initiative supports innovation in all aspects of teaching and learning. Our online platform, Community of Innovative Educators, facilitates the sharing of best practice and expertise development, and a pilot project in Serbia offers a great example of what can be achieved when teachers collaborate and learn from each other. In July we carried out a call for practice fostering new learning, to highlight innovative teaching practices that are able to inspire teachers, trainers and policy-makers across all the ETF’s partner countries. The response was incredible, with more than 800 applications from 50 countries. The three best practices will be awarded the ETF Innovative Teaching and Learning Award 2022. The ETF has also developed a tool to help identify the digital training needs of vocational teachers, and has created new profiles for vocational teachers of the future.
The ETF’s Network for Excellence (ENE), which mirrors the EU’s initiative on centres of vocational excellence (CoVEs), seeks to stimulate the sharing of ideas, practices and experience between CoVEs at both national and international levels. ENE works on the development of partnerships by grouping CoVEs to combine their efforts to promote excellence in specific areas. GRETA – Greening Responses to Excellence through Thematic Actions – is one such initiative that brings together CoVEs from across the ETF’s partner countries to share their experience and knowledge in updating programmes and curricula to meet the challenges of the green and digital transitions. Hosting regular thematic webinars throughout 2022, there is much focus on the importance of ‘training the trainers’ so that they may better respond to students’ needs.
ENE is also connected with CoVEs in sub-Saharan Africa, as part of the ETF’s support to the EU’s cooperation with the African Union on skills development. As detailed inLearning Connects No. 3, an ETF study undertaken on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) examined data from 26 vocational schools from 14 sub-Saharan African countries to give a snapshot of good practice in the region.
This month, we will find out more about the work of DG INTPA in an interview with Cécile Billaux, Head of the Private Sector, Trade and Investment Unit.
Open-mindedness and collaboration help make a successful teacher: A view from Georgia
Georgia, one of the ETF’s Eastern Partnership countries, is having to contend with many of the educational challenges faced by other European co...
Georgia, one of the ETF’s Eastern Partnership countries, is having to contend with many of the educational challenges faced by other European countries. The global pandemic resulted in unprecedented interruptions to teaching and the solution to take the classroom online required teachers across the country to digitally upskill overnight, as well as contend with difficulties of inconsistent online access, especially in rural areas.
Merab Labadze, a lecturer of Innovation and Technology in Public Administration at both the Tbilisi State University and the Ilia State University recently shared his insights into the educational system in Georgia.
Merab's varied experiences working in international, ICT-focused educational project teams include adapting the successful Estonian Tiger Leap programme and implementing it in Georgia, and promoting the Intel-supported ‘Teaching with Technology’ programme and the STEM student science fair. These experiences, coupled with his initiatives to train teachers in ICT and digital skills, have led him to co-found and direct the NGO Innovative Education Foundation,an institution supporting STEM and ICT education development in Georgia.
“The characteristics that make for a successful teacher are open-mindedness, willingness to try new methods, and cooperation with peers and students”, believes Merab. Regarding digital skills, “students are often more informed and knowledgeable than the teacher” and so recognising the value of sharing this expertise can lead to innovation in the classroom.
However, with the average age of a teacher in Georgia being around 60 years old, this new digital way of working has not been embraced by all. Many teachers who had to upskill quickly in response to Covid-19 have since reverted to a more traditional method of teaching and “have, in effect, just stopped using the technology”. Working conditions as a teacher are also a barrier to attracting younger, more digitally skilled people into the profession.
“In Georgia, being a teacher is not such an esteemed profession and the pay is low. A lot of teachers supplement their salaries by working as private tutors outside school hours and in rural areas, many teachers are also farmers”.
Difficulties are compounded when new incoming administrations implement changes that can lack clarity or create a work overload.
That said, institutions and organisations, such as Merab’s, are making a difference and putting STEM and ICT firmly centre stage. Helping teachers to join online communities and get involved with international cooperation projects, such as the Erasmus+ eTwinning programme, promotes a culture of sharing knowledge and learning from examples of best practice which, in turn, encourages teachers to find new content for their educational programmes. As one of the ETF’s community ambassadors, Merab knows first-hand the benefits of being an active member of an international community, such as that found on ETF Open Space.
“Being able to build horizontal networks instead of following top-down initiatives allows for greater cooperation,” he said. “By supporting teachers in Georgia to develop their own horizontal networks, we will see an increase in adaptation and innovation”.
This will surely lead to an increase in many more successful teachers.
Why inclusion must be at the core of the classroom experience
When people talk of promoting inclusion and multiculturalism in the classroom, Frank Hennessey, an Irish teacher, educator and trainer – and for...
When people talk of promoting inclusion and multiculturalism in the classroom, Frank Hennessey, an Irish teacher, educator and trainer – and for many years head of Business Studies at St Mary’s University College, part of Queen’s University Belfast – prefers to turn the question around.
“Inclusion is essential,” Frank says. “Flip it around and you have exclusion, which is a recipe for disaster.”
Frank turns to his own country of birth, to make his point.
“In Northern Ireland, we have a religiously segregated education system. Although now we have a strong move towards integration, it remains true that if you don’t have inclusion, you don’t have the opportunities to relate at a basic level. There is a failure in understanding. There is misunderstanding. And with all that, you can understand how questions of identity are fostered.”
Looking towards Europe, you see other examples of racial segregation, for example in parts of France and Belgium, highlighting that inclusion and multiculturalism in education is an issue not only for EU partner countries, but also for the 27 Member States themselves.
“The most powerful thing you can do is to educate,” Frank emphasises. “That is why you see the denial of education in, for example, Afghanistan, because the authorities there feel threatened by education.”
As an educator and policy advisor, Frank is currently working with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber on the EU-funded project Creating an Entrepreneurship Coaching and Training Programme for University Spin-offs. He has contributed to the European Commission’s Entrepreneurship Education Working Group, and has worked with several European and ETF partner countries, including more recently promoting entrepreneurship education with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) in Egypt.
At a policy level Frank understands that gender inclusion in particular is an area that demands joined-up policy-making.
“As far as inclusion of women and girls is concerned, childbirth, family size, poverty levels – all these are linked and have a direct correlation to educational opportunities for women,” he observes.
The practicalities of having a range of NGOs and external agencies working in areas such as education inevitably impact on framing effective inclusion policies.
From his time in Egypt Frank recalls the government authorities often being challenged to reconcile differing policy agendas and associated project priorities from different external funders. While the overarching aims of such external agencies were ultimately the same, different objectives inhibited policy-makers in framing coherent policies. Frank’s experience in Egypt working in the Sohag Governorate on the Upper Nile, was encouraging both in terms of multiculturalism and gender balance in the classroom. Although senior positions were mostly occupied by men, women teachers felt valued and they were able to express their views on educational and other issues, Frank recalls.
“The women teachers were very impressive: dynamic, resourceful and imaginative. They were not afraid of asserting themselves in workshops.”
In terms of inclusion, one business idea which emerged from the project was the recognition of women needing protected spaces – a niche opportunity existed for a café that catered solely for women. However, some women expressed strong views against this approach which they felt reinforced stereotypes.
In contrast, Frank has found many examples of opposition to inclusion in supposedly more advanced economies. As an external consultant to schools in England, he once came across a single-sex girls’ school in a heavily multicultural area of a northern city where the students were overwhelmingly white. It was only when he realised that the uniform dress code allowed the girls to wear skirts that would be considered scandalously short in the conservative Muslim district where the school was situated that it became clearer how selective exclusion was being practiced there.
When it comes to the digital and green transitions – priority areas that can make inclusion difficult, particularly for poorer students without access at home to digital devices – Frank has learned that throwing money at technology is not always the answer to greater inclusion.
“There was an interesting 2015 OECD report that found that spending on technology made little difference in schools – it was how you used it that mattered,” he says.
“In Egypt many teachers were engaging with their students to flip classroom learning – setting tasks that could be followed up outside of school by students using their mobile phones for research and communication.”
As ever, the real investment is in the teachers and their ability to engage with their students.
Interview with Cécile Billaux, Head of Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) is responsible for formulating the EU’s international pa...
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) is responsible for formulating the EU’s international partnership and development policy that supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on reducing poverty, ensuring sustainable development, and promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law across the world.
The ETF supports DG INTPA primarily in Central Asia, especially with the recently launched DARYA project, and in Africa supporting the development of the African Continental Qualifications Framework, and enhancing the quality of vocational schools in sub-Saharan Africa.
We interviewed Cécile Billaux, Head of the Private Sector, Trade and Investment Unit to get her view on DG INTPA’s work.
ETF: How important do you think building skills and employment is for the EU’s external relations and development policy?
CB: Fundamental. If you look at Africa, DG INTPA’s main focus is to support investment, and for this to happen, investors need to find workers with the right skills. The skills agenda is at the top of the political agenda. It’s not possible to have economic growth and social inclusion without a trained workforce and investment in the economy to create employment opportunities.
We have increasing demand from our partner countries, and our delegations to work more closely with the private sector on VET [vocational education and training] programmes. For example, to encourage European industry to do business in sub-Saharan Africa, we are working to provide the appropriate business environment for private sector investment and to ensure that it benefits the local economy. The Commissioner for Internal Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, has put education as a top priority of her mandate and aims to increase the amount of EU funds dedicated to education to 10% because it is a fundamental transversal issue that impacts sustainable development, growth and jobs, digitalisation, migration as well as peace and security.
ETF: What is the strategic value of DG INTPA in working with the ETF?
CB: The ETF is an important partner for DG INTPA within the European institutional family given its unique role working within the EU’s external relations on education and skills development. We benefitted from the training courses delivered by the ETF to EU delegations staff last year on vocational education and training.
The ETF’s long experience in Central Asia makes it a perfect partner for implementing the new DARYA programme. Likewise, the ETF’s expertise has been a vital source for us working in Africa, particularly on the pan-African qualifications framework and the quality development of vocational schools. Of course, the ETF’s main geographical responsibility is the EU Neighbourhood, which is outside of DG INTPA’s remit, but where our paths cross we are grateful for your experience and ready-made instruments and tools. The ETF is a great natural partner for us to join forces on this ambitious agenda in education and skills.
ETF: 2022 being the European Year of Youth, the ETF is focusing its communication on young people and skills. How important is youth engagement for your work?
CB: The European Commission is now working on the Youth Action Plan that will notably ensure we have young people on board in policy decision-making and engaged in issues that concern their lives and future. In my Unit, we are working on the Team Europe initiative ‘Invest in Young Businesses in Africa’ (IYBA), which targets young entrepreneurs and supports innovative businesses, especially those of young women. It’s not only about increasing access to finance but also about creating a supportive ecosystem for them to avoid getting stuck in their business development and receive appropriate support and training to grow.
ETF: Could you share some examples at country or regional level with us?
CB: In Africa, a large amount of employment is in the informal economy, which provides specific challenges for skills development and support to business. There are isolated examples of success and the challenge is to connect them and create scale for system change. A successful recent example that comes to mind is in Nigeria which is emerging from innovation in the cashew nut business and where VET training for staff has allowed the development of new processing units. Starting small at the micro-sectoral level with the right kind of investment and skills development can bring long-lasting positive results that can be built upon.
DG INTPA cooperates with other European Commission’s services on thematic areas in external relations as well as EU Member States and EU Delegations in the field. The EU's approach is driven by the European Consensus on Development which seeks to combine aid, build partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, and ensure policy coherence to deal with the pressing issues of our time such as food shortages, rising inflation, digital and green transitions, gender and inclusion.
The Global Gateway 2021–27 is the new European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.
4 Facts on teachers in ETF partner countries
Working in the EU’s neighbouring regions with a wide range of stakeholders, the ETF is engaged in developing teaching and learning, in support o...
Working in the EU’s neighbouring regions with a wide range of stakeholders, the ETF is engaged in developing teaching and learning, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including goal 4 which requires “a commitment by countries to ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited and remunerated, well trained, professionally qualified and motivated to support quality education and learning”.
Take a look at this month’s 4 facts on teachers and get a glimpse of what’s going on in some of our partner countries.
1. 98.8% of primary school teachers in Kyrgyzstan in 2020 were female.
2. Turkey ranked 7thin 2018 in terms of respecting its teachers the most.
3. 30% of secondary school teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 were female.
4. Morocco increased its number of university lecturers by 18% in the past 5 years, while student numbers increased by 71%.
ETF podcast #19 - Young people are the solution In this episode of the ETF Skills Factory podcast series, we investigate the challenges that young people are facing when looking for a job and the main mechanisms that public authorities are introducing in the EU and beyond to tackle those challenges.
We focus on the Youth Guarantee initiative – What is it? What does it guarantee? For whom?
To answer these questions we spoke with Cristina Mereuta, ETF expert, and Dikensa Topi, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at Tirana European Youth Capital 2022 – National Youth Congress of Albania.