What of it, or the good experience in non-formal education
Photo made by Eglė Gendrėnaitė
According to the European Commission, non-formal learning means learning that takes place through planned activities where some sort of learning support is present. It takes place outside the formal education, vocational training and higher education, and can include different activities – from programs to impart work-skills for early school-leavers to in-company training to structured online learning, projects of non-formal youth learning to develop a self-conscious personality. The main principles of non-formal education are holistic approach, learning from experience, group process-oriented learning, active participation in the learning process. While the recognition of competences gained through non-formal education is still a work in progress, young people are already reaping the benefits. In the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum, which took place 22nd-25th October in Kaunas, several people shared their and the people they worked with, stories about non-formal education experience related to participation in international EU programmes.
During the first day of the Forum a young woman from Belarus Natallia Kunitskaya told her story about finding courage to follow her dreams. Ever since she was little, she loved composing and performing but a year ago she was working in a bank, distinctly wondering if she’ll ever have a career in music. The turning point in her life was a youth project in Sweden ‘Give Music a Chance’ where she had an opportunity to see what her life would be like if she just believed in herself. For a whole week she worked on music daily and communicated with other musicians from different countries. In her speech, she made it a point to stress out how much this clash of cultures helped her to improve as a person. The final personal result of this project was that Natallia decided to exchange a stable job in a bank for something that she always wanted to do – be a musician. At the moment she is working on her first CD, which she plans to release in spring.
Another example of the opportunities, provided by international youth projects, was given by Marisha – a youth worker from Belarus. She worked as a facilitator in Eastern Partnership Youth Forum. In an interview, conducted by young journalists of Eurodesk Lithuania and NA of “Youth in Action”, she told about a “Youth in Action” project in Lithuania ‘Week on Arts’ where a class of students from school had to spend five days in each other’s company and learn how to solve various conflicts and problems. In addition, every day they had to work with an artist or a musician on a performance which reflected some problem at school. With great enthusiasm Marisha marked how much students enjoyed the project and what a great deal of knowledge they gained, not to mention the practical social skills they developed which, with no doubt, will be useful in the future.
The final story is of yet another project in Lithuania. A local youth worker shared a story about her project with a group of girls from 9th and 10th grades of secondary school. The project was dedicated to self-improvement of the pupils with fewer opportunities since they had to write down specific goals and, with the help of youth workers, to achieve them (e.g. in a month to learn enough French to hold a short conversation). One of the participants – a girl in 9th grade who knew she will soon have to face a decision of what to choose when she went to a vocational school – had no idea what she wanted to do in her future. However, by taking part in the project and having an opportunity to try out her hand at arranging flowers she realized that she’d love to be a florist, which is what she chose when the time came.
All in all, we can see that despite the lack of recognition in the labor market, the non-formal education lets people do many things they wouldn’t have a possibility to do otherwise. Whether it is the belief in oneself as in Natallia’s case, social skills or a push towards the path that is destined for you, non-formal learning is, and always will be a necessary in the road of education.
Gintarė Vasiliūnaitė, young journalist of Eurodesk Lithuania and Lithuanian NA of “Youth in Action”