"Сlearing House" programme was presented at the V Informal Education Festival on December 6 in Minsk. Participants of the festival (this year their number exceeded 250 people) were provided with information on international grant opportunities for projects in Belarus and empowerment prospects for local communities. Earlier this year leaders of non-profit organisations had a chance to take part in the activities of "Clearing House" programme, learning a method used to assess needs of local communities and examining theoretical and practical aspects of project preparation for international calls for proposals.
This year the Festival brought together representatives of 50 organisations from Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Israel, Germany and Switzerland. Organizers and guests of the festival discussed development prospects of informal education in the Republic of Belarus and announced the results of the “Event of the Year” contest.
Among some of the key points featured heavily at the festival discussions were the benefits brought to the society by informal education and evaluation of development prospects and tendencies of informal education in Belarus. After a panel discussion on this topic was held on the first day of the Festival, on the second day representatives of non-profit organizations and the business sector had a discussion of the "Socially Beneficial Activities" draft law which concerned charity issues and allocation of state support to public initiatives.
Heike Doil, representing the Arbeit une Leben Mecklenburg-Pomerania Land Association, noted in the course of the discussion on issues of informal education development that in Germany informal education is state-supported: employers that give their workers time to take part in informal education (up to 5 days a year) receive a budgetary compensation.
Preferential tax treatment can be used as an instrument to support informal education in Belarus, says Galina Veremeichyk, head of Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V. Agency and Executive Director of the International Public Association "Education without Borders". She thinks that the festival is relevant to the processes taking place in the country:
"Such good timing is due to the realisation that human educational activities are much more significant and inclusive than simply being a number of levels in formal institutions you have to go through. Such an understanding is shared at almost all levels in the country. It can become a starting point for modernization and reforming education in future. I hope that in this reformation process informal education is considered to be an integral part of our national education system, and the society and educational policy makers will raise the following question: how do we support informal education, on the one hand, and how do we recognize its achievements, on the other hand?”
Daria Kuzmenkova, a representative of the Management Development Association, recalled an example of successful cooperation between government and non-profit organizations in the field of informal education: that of cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of Belarus. Management Development Association, which comprises leading providers of business education (IPM Business School, SATIL System Business Technologies Center, consulting company "Key solutions", etc.), provides consultations to the ministry on how to create a national business education concept. In the nearest future, the Association is planning to implement a joint informal education project with the Baltic Management Development Association. Sergey Sulimov, a participant of the discussion and a founder of the Leader ecucational center, informal education can be in demand in the context of market economy if the job market says so:
"A lot of people in our country take up various courses to change their job profile. Say, a girl works at a factory but wants to start her own business. She chooses a thing she likes, completes a manicure course and starts working at home. This way she makes more money ".
According to Sulimov, about 10 thousand people completed course in the past year. At the moment the center has several areas of training: programming courses, foreign language courses, etc. An average course lasts from 5 weeks to 3 months.
As was noted by Iryna Dzyuba, Vice-Rector of Academy of Postgraduate Education of Belarus, "state educational institutions, informal structures and business feel that partnership is needed". In her opinion, it is becoming more and more difficult for the system of formal education to keep up with the changes and development tendencies of the modern technocratic society.
A special jury of the Festival identified the most significant informal education events of the year 2014. Here are the winners of the “Event of the Year” competition:
• Belarusian language course "Mova Nanova" ("Language Anew") (social and cultural institution of the Belarusian language and culture "Mova Nanova"),
• "Golden Age University" (public association "Center for Information Support of Public Initiatives "The Third Sector"),
• Project "Third Age University: New Chances for Social Inclusion" (Belarusian Association of Social Workers),
• Festival of Environmental Art and Development for Children "Green Weekend" (Public Organisation "Ecodom"),
• Distance learning course for disabled people " Internet Without Barriers " (Initiative " Internet Without Barriers").
This year, 47 events have been submitted for consideration in the "Event of the Year" contest. One of the evaluation criteria was how it helped to solve important social problems and developed social, civic, personal and professional skills. The competition jury included representatives of the “Budzma Belarusami!” campaign, Educational and Human Resource Center «New Tomorrow», organisation "Pact", "Flying University" programme, etc.