Second Chance Schools (SCSs) is an EU Initiative to combat the social exclusion of early school leavers through education and training. SCSs promote new literacies and competences associated with real-life situations and workplaces.
(InfoNet - Christos Doukas)
A. Papadopoulou (A.P.) is a young lady, aged 32, married with two children who lives in a western suburb of Athens. This suburb is an area with high levels of unemployment and risks of social and educational exclusion. A.P. has not finished compulsory education due to her need to work and her limited motivation to learn. Throughout her work experiences in many insecure jobs and the responsibilities of family life, she reconsidered her position. As she explains in a local newspaper "returning to education has been a dream for me, a new window to the life-world".
M. Kafetzakis is a young man, aged 24, who lives in the island of Crete. He is also an early school leaver as he followed a widespread trend in his area to work in the tourist sector. However his low skills created an obstacle in job seeking and decreased his self-esteem. "When you enter employment you understand better the need for more qualifications and skills", he argued in a media report about the phenomenon of early school leavers in popular tourist areas of Greece.
From reluctant to positive
Both cases appeared to be particularly interested when they were informed about the establishment of SCSs in their areas. SCSs were created in Greece in 2002 and extended since then all over the country. These schools provide certification of compulsory education based on the principles of Adult Education.
The two young people above were reluctant at the beginning due to their previous school experiences. Local promoters of the project encouraged them to participate in a new learning experience quite different from the traditional one.
After one year of studies in the SCS, the two young people were more positive. They estimated that this kind of learning was based on their needs and experiences. The educational environment was friendly and encouraging. Teachers worked as facilitators and coordinators. Moreover SCS learning is based mostly on authentic texts in work-places, social and cultural life as well as new technologies.
Teachers of SCSs, most of them having a previous teaching background in formal secondary education, emphasize two challenges of the project. First the transformative character of the curriculum framework of SCS. Instead of the centralized and pre-determined content-targets, SCS are mostly based on practices/processes of learning that create the opportunities for local redesigns. These practices give the chance of more diversified pedagogies. Secondly, education in the new environment does not lead to the reproduction of discrete basic academic knowledge but it promotes trans-discipline learning associated with real-life situations (multi-literacies). A principal of a SCS and previous secondary education teacher for 20 years, stated that "previously I felt as the last link of a top-down chain, now I feel more as a Life Long Learner and a co-designer of social-learning futures"
Second Chance Learning and Formal Education
From the point of view of experts of the SCSs H. Hodolidou, a professor and responsible for the professional development of teachers, emphasized the multi-literacies basis of the project. She defines multi-literacies as "social practices associated with the multiplicity of meaning-making due to ICTs social-cultural environments". Within this framework she argues that literacies consist of not only the ability to write, to read and make arithmetic calculations. More than that multiliteracies constitute the competences to act in life-situations: to solve problems, to work in groups, to use interpersonal skills, to express disposition to learning etc.
To this end, traditional disciplines (language, numeracy, science etc) are transformed in SCSs in cross-border literacies in order to contribute as roadmaps to the learners´ future. Project-based learning and alternative methodologies of assessment are at the core of the pedagogy of the SCSs. In her publications she identifies areas of difficulties and improvement such as: the danger of the reproduction of the disciplined-based cultures instead of the multiliteracies pedagogies and the resistance of bureaucratic top-down apparatus towards traditional modes of curriculum planning. In fact she points out crucial points of the sustainability of multiliteracies innovation in a centralized system like the Greek one.
In conclusion, the experience of SCSs can be summarized in the words of a graduate student who said at a ceremony of SCSs learners: "The SCS was not a second chance for me, it was the first chance I had in education". A teacher in the same ceremony commented: "Maybe for the formal education system, it is a second chance for improvement"