EAEA News 2008-01-08
Functional basic education of adult Roma
The project "Functional Basic Education of Adult Roma" in Serbia improved social integration of Roma via their inclusion into the system of education and an increase of employability.
This was done by giving the chance to those who once dropped-out from elementary school, to finish VII and VIII degree and get the diploma of elementary school, and additionally to choose and attend one of the vocational courses, getting so the vocational training certificate.
The new curriculum was developed - tailor made for Roma, but still in accordance with the state standards. This program includs general education subjects and life skills courses (health, family life education, active citizenship, communication, IT skills, enterpreneurship). The schools were equiped and teachers trained for both new program and specific didactical approach to Roma. The project also introduced the new role: Roma assistant to the teacher - the person who accompanied the students, helping them in both school and social issues.
Although the target group were Roma, the „hidden agenda" of the two-years project was to develope and test the new model of functional basic education for adults and to check if the model is appropriate for minority groups. The systemic character of the project allows some conclusions about the „lesson learned" and some recommendation for basic adult education:
- Basic adult education is immanently education for marginalised group. If they belong to some minority group, there is a need for additional content and for increased sensitivity for this specific group, but the approach is mainly the same;
- Functional basic education is the best and most sustainable way to reduce poverty of the marginalised groups, because it leads to increased employbility;
- Basic adult education should (almost) always be functional. The project achieved that through:
- Basic education was combined with vocational trainings. Educational diploma + qualification certificate is the most important way to motivate adults, to reduce drop-out, to make results sustainable,
- General basic education curriculum is related to the needs of adult participants, meeting their needs in private and professional life,
- Adult students need curriculum that includes relevant content (such as: family life education, health and AIDS-prevention, active citizenship, protection of environment, entrepreneurship, active job seeking..) and develops "life skills" and key competences (IT and modern technologies in everyday life, languages, "soft skills"...);
- Minority groups may find some additional help in the classroom very usefull, especially if the „assistants" have the same ethnical/cultural background as they do. One of the main reasons for the success of this project was the fact that "Roma assistants" were introduced into the classes as the kind of "assistant teacher"
- The projects aiming development of specific mechanisms in the society that could enable inclusion of marginalized group face numerous obstacles during implementation, because social partnership is needed on all levels and among very various partner (educational authorities and institutions, companies, social services, employment, NGOs etc). On the same time, the achieved results are therefore long-term and sustainable, since they develop and test mechanisms and measures for the long-term inclusion of marginalized group into the social life.
- For the minority groups (especially Roma) it is very important to achieve synergy and coordination among different strategies for their social integration and inclusion (in the area of education, living, health...). It is necessary to combine all the efforts and to coordinate the activities on different levels.
- In order to motivate adults to participate in basic education and to reduce drop-out, education programm itself and the school should pay attention to:
- Teachers nad trainers have to be trained to use modern methods of adult teaching, especially interactive methods;
- Strong target group orientation is a must in basic education of minority groups, more in approach than in content: It is interesting that for Roma it was not so important to have their language, culture and history, but teachers sensitized for their needs and possibilities, using appropriate methods and treating them „really as adults";
- Modular approach, flexible organisation and dynamik of teaching are of crucial importance - evening or early morning classes, variety depending of the weekday and month (because of the seasonal works) etc. Shorter duration of the classes seems to be good - 30 minutes instead of 45 and block schedules;
- Although separate classes might have some advantages (in terms of target group oriented didactics and contents), mixed classes with students from different social groups or cultural background are preferred and can support social integration;
- Educational programs offered to marginalized groups should be recognized by educational authorities and labor market. Otherwise there is a danger of creating "educational ghetto", suspected for not being of good quality, therefore not sustainable and not attractive for the target group. The issue of balance between running low level to make it easier for the students, and maintaining the level quality according to standards - is an important one;
- It is useful if the curriculum is developed in four main parts: core curriculum in basic education, life skills and key competences, content specific for the single target group (therefore adaptable), and professional skills/training. Such program could be sustainable and adaptable for various target groups, especially during reforms in the countries in transition.
(INFOnet - Katarina Popovic)