1) What are your expectations as an EAEA board member?
First, I would like to become more familiar with the work dynamic of the EAEA board members and to continue excellent work that EAEA has been already doing. I believe it takes some time to find out what is the best way to contribute considering my work experience and educational background. The word that comes to my mind when speaking about this position is responsibility. I see myself in this position as a messenger who tries to make some ideas and needs more visible in the European discourse.
2) What adult education topics you wish to further especially as an EAEA board member?
I will do my best to continue amazing work of Katarina Popović in strengthening voices of non-EU countries and the South East Europe (SEE) region. Also, as a member of EAEA younger staff network, I would like to carry on EAEA work on greater participation of younger adult education staff.
I am convinced that in adult education we need to go back to the roots, and ask philosophical questions regarding society and learning. Today, mainstream adult education serves as an instrument to the development within frameworks of already existing assumptions (for instance development = progress in economy, cognitive development = human development, strengthening democracy = cultivating rationality, and so on). Therefore, the topic I am drawn to is how to foster adult education that engage us as active philosophers who go beyond existing paradigms and create alternatives to the dominant system of thought.
Transformative, embodied and other learning theories that do not reduce human development to cognitive development are very much of my interest. Since the next year is dedicated to health, it might be the right time for their promotion. The question for me is how to put these learning theories into education practice and how to support acknowledgement of existing practices. I believe that stronger cooperation with culture and art could help us as adult educators, as would continuing to build connections with European research communities.
Unemployment is still a huge problem in Europe, particularly in SEE region and adult education is perceived as a part of solution. I am very glad that the role of adult education is recognized, but it can only help to a certain level. It is an amazing instrument to foster entrepreneurship and support people to develop their ideas and make them reality, but the question how to create more work posts still remains open.
3) How do you see the future of adult education in Europe? What is EAEA´s role in it?
In this period, particularly in Europe, we are in crisis of modernity and there is a huge space for paradigm shift. Enlightenment project through its cultivation of reason and science did not succeeded, it did not offer answers to the main human problems.
Nowadays, although the discourse that highlights holistic approach to learning is very present among adult education practitioners and researchers, mainstream education is too individualistic and outcome based. I wonder how we in adult education can create space for learning that is process oriented, interested in building connections and communities, education that fosters imagination and creativity together with logic and rationality.
I cannot predict the future of adult education in Europe, but I hope for adult education that does not offer right answer, but that opens spaces in which we can explore, be spontaneous and together find many ways of who we want to be in relation to society, work, and each other. I know that there are many projects in Europe (in UK, Greece, Serbia, Portugal, Germany, Estonia etc), most of them self financed, that offer this space. Perhaps, EAEA work can make their work more visible and research such as BELL are very much welcome.
4) Why did you become an adult education professional?
I have grown up in Serbia during ‘90s. The school system was ruined at the time. In the second year of my high school there was bombing so we did not go to school at all. In times of “peace” there were strikes of teachers so it was more or less the same. But during that time, I went to drama classes, and later, at the university I continued to attend contemporary dance workshop and physical theatre workshops that were facilitated by Serbian, but also international artists. I felt like coming home and through that I have created my community and approach to education. I feel that during the high school I was more influenced by nonformal then by formal education, and at the University my approach was very much the combination of studying and engagement with vibrant artistic and performance community. So, somehow it was inevitable to continue to work in the field that shaped me as a person. Now, I am working with students, trainers and communities and it is a huge gain to see people connecting with each other and speaking their voices louder.
Interview and photo: Helka Repo