Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis Chairman on the Committee on European Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania EDUCATION WITHOUT BOUNDARIES 13 May 2003, Riga
Dear Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I was asked to deliver a speech for this conference on the future of our cooperation in the field of lifelong learning with the emphasis on adult education, I started thinking about a kind of unifying idea that might be suitable and came up with two letters - NB. These are the letters that symbolize learning. I think they are appropriate in this audience. Really, what do they stand for – NB? They stand for Nordic-Baltic, they stand for Nota Bene, and they stand for No Boundaries. In my speech I would like to touch upon all these matters:
the value of the experience of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation,
the prospect for No Boundaries not just in the sense of the mobility of people in the region but also in everyone’s mind and
upon the kind of Nota Bene this part for Europe could be for the rest of it.
I understand that during this conference you had an excellent opportunity to discuss a lot of practical questions, you shared a great deal of experience you accumulated in the course of your work and this is the actual value of such events. Experience in general is greatly appreciated as there is no bad experience. We can have hard, painful, terrifying experience, but it never turns to be a bad one. It is bad that we sometimes tend to forget what was unpleasant. For this reason, I see experience as a great treasure for everyone who was touched by it. And you know that everything we gain can teach you and me. You, who deal with educational issues, know it much better then I do.
The ten years of Nordic Baltic cooperation in Adult education have shown that our nations in this area could not only assist each other, but also develop valuable and mutually beneficial cooperation projects. During the previous years, there were many opportunities to speak about the value of this cooperation and here I would like just to mention that major political decisions in this area support the activities aimed at promoting peoples understanding, common efforts and development.
Education in general and adult education in particular, is an activity, which provides the strongest incentives to community progress and development. For this reason, Life long learning strategy and policy is important not only from the point of view of an individual country, but also from the point of view of our entire region forging alliances between our countries. Nordic Baltic regional cooperation could serve an excellent example for the rest of Europe in putting the ideas of LLL Memorandum into life. Those predispositions are based both on the Grundtvig ideas and our current cooperation experience.
And what does future hold for us? I would say, it opens up education without boundaries. The boundaries should be eliminated not by large, sometimes overwhelming strategies but instead by gradual initiatives. What do I mean by that?
Firstly, it should be education without area limitations. We need to create such learning opportunities which would satisfy adults’ curiosity and foster their professional developmental needs anywhere and at any time. The title of this conference – A Human Touch – is highly symbolic.
What can politicians do for an individual human being in order to make him or her feel more confident and more secure in their life? - They can provide opportunities. Opportunities for a more interesting, more meaningful and richer personal life. I would encourage governments and politicians to voice their support for the local initiatives aimed at promoting cooperation both within neighborhoods and throughout the region. We need to make sure that any dividing lines are erased. We need to support our meetings in a form of conferences, workshops and study visits, to develop study networks, inter alia, through internet.
But before we spread out those activities on a new scale, communication means should be improved. Simple one – language. I know that during this conference you’ve touch upon this issue many times. It is a serious one. Why in the future languages could not be one of the priorities in our cooperation. For example, one part of the supported projects could be highly recommended as summer language and culture camps for project participants. I think that with such a practice we would promote the essential meaning of adult education, where education for work would stand closer to education for life.
When communication becomes easier and quicker, decentralized model of cooperation should take another spin. Then we will face a coordination problem.
Therefore, the next question that we need to answer is whether we encourage the decentralized model for widely spread activities both domestically and internationally and what would the monitoring institution be?
I think the institution should be a meeting like this - a conference, where politicians, practitioners and participants of the projects would meet and discuss their successes and pitfalls. A conference like this could be an advisory forum for implementing specific decisions at a national level, which would in turn encourage national and international steps in an area. One of the main initiatives could be development of local communities throughout the region. Today, in Lithuania, just like, I believe, in Latvia and Estonia, we face a great need and interest in developing small rural communities.
Yes, it is education without material limitations. Quality and effectiveness of education, in this context, are essential. Nowadays life is moving at a much higher speed than a decade ago. We get professionally older much quicker than we do physically. In order to meet these challenges of rapid change, we need to focus upon quality. That is, we not only need to get educated, but also to get the best quality education available – education without boundaries. Tax policies should be improved in such a way, that people were encouraged to seek educational activities whenever and wherever they wish to do so.
Yes, it is education without psychological barriers. Education fosters democracy. It has the power to inspire people to become more responsible for their own life and carriers. For this reason – accessibility for various society groups to continuous development are of crucial importance. You might ask: but how to attract people to learning activities? How to inspire them? Education should be understood as an activity which brings to people joy of life, also including prosperity. Teaching, learning and organizational methods and forms should show that education is a strong impulse for enriching ones life in a whole range of aspects. In that sense “marketing” education as a style of life should became a norm to every socially responsible person – starting with civil servants and ending with top politicians in every country.
We need to create such a learning environment, which would be different from a traditional one. Not opposing but expanding it. Conference title – A human touch – Adult Learning with Difference – obliges us to do so. From my point of view, this difference could be a simple one. Nowadays, and it was mentioned on a number of occasions in this conference, it is of utmost importance to educate people for work. Nobody doubts that. I think that this emphasis gives to us not only a different meaning, but also a different type of quality as well. In my understanding, emphasis should be laid upon education for life and afterwards for work. In education for life we concentrate on values and attitudes. Why do we live? What is the value and meaning of life? These questions are not rhetoric. They are very practical. In such turbulent times like today, each person needs to have a very strong life-issues tailoring concept. This concept could be developed through new approaches in learning activities and its programs. In one of your project “Learning for Sharing” you have created criteria for a good adult teacher and one of those criteria was “to create value based programs”. I think this is a very important message. In order to overcome various learning difficulties – inviting people to learning, helping them to change their attitudes and others – we need a strong dimension in a humanitarian approach throughout the whole process of learning. That is why I think that the approach of your conference – A Human Touch – is very much to the point. A touch of the teacher means being closer to the learner’s personal needs and his/her motivation for progressing with their learning; a touch from the learner means becoming more open towards personal strengths and weaknesses in order to achieve an attractive way of life.
Such an ambitious goal can only be achieved through a wide support of Nordic Baltic adult educators - as a community capable of promoting the European Lifelong learning polity throughout Europe.
And Nota Bene for us and the rest of Europe. I believe that this region around the Baltic Sea is not only very comfortable for people to live but also a very interesting one full of opportunities, which stretch in front of us. Education throughout the entire life has a very solid ground here and we need to foster it and share it with others. We are not going to compete, we are not going to overcome, we are not going to win. We are going to enjoy the richness of life and to share this with the rest of Europe and the world.
Thank you for your attention.