THE CARE FOR QUALITY IN ADULT EDUCATION The case of Slovenia

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1 THE CARE FOR QUALITY IN ADULT EDUCATION The case of Slovenia Sonja Klemenčič, Mag. Tanja Možina, Slovenian Institute for Adult Education Published in: Quality assurance in VET (http://communities.trainingvillage.gr/quality), Thessaloniki: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training = CEDEFOP, Reasons for increased care for quality in adult education Discussions about quality in education are not a new phenomenon, either in Slovenia or in Europe, or elsewhere in the world. On closer inspection we can see that such discussions and activities have intensified over this past decade. This article aims to present some of the factors, which determine quality development in adult education in Slovenia over the past ten years. We must emphasise in the introduction, that this review shows the activities as we see, create and assess them through our work as the employees of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE). Slovenian Institute for Adult Education is a central non-government and non-profit institution for research, development and guidance in the area of adult education (www.acs.si). It was established by the Slovene government in The inseparable part of its mission is to promote the culture of life-long learning and to inform population about the necessity of quality and extensive adult education, as this has become an important development factor in the modern, ever-changing world. Very soon after the establishment of the SIAE, its employees faced with the questions of quality. Undoubtedly, the new social an political context, in which 1

2 Slovenia found itself, contributed to this. After the independence from Yugoslavia and after being established as an independent country in 1991, Slovenia faced major changes. The area of education, in particular, was one of those everyday-life areas, in which a major reform of the entire educational system was witnessed in the last decade. The area of adult education in Slovenia was in particular marked by two phenomena in the last decade: - a relatively rapid expansion of the availability of new educational programmes, methods and forms of adult education, and also the providers of such services. All this is accompanied by the appearance of the fast-changing market of educational services, which has positive and negative consequences, - increased expectations and needs of the state and employers that adult education adequately compensate the registered educational deficiency qualitatively and quantitatively, so that they [the employers and state] can improve their competitive edge in Europe and the world. At the same time, it became necessary that all activities, measures taken on the national level and effects of these measures should be corroborated with systematic care for quality in adult education. Broadly speaking, all the measures, which were introduced, fall into the following groups: - some normative acts, which determine minimal quality standards in adult education were passed (e. g.: Adult Education Master plan, Decree on standards and norms in adult education, Decree on minimal staff and space requirements in adult education, Directives for adjusting vocational and professional education to adult participants), - periodic quality monitoring for verified adult education programmes was implemented (foreign language programmes for adults, Slovene for adults, primary school for adults etc.), 2

3 - annual quality monitoring of programmes subsidised from the state budget (study circles, self-study centres, literacy programmes, project learning for young adults, guidance centres), - some new programmes in adult education are monitored in their experimental/pilot stage (10 programmes of higher professional education), - in-depth evaluations of national measures to increase the participation of adults in education are being carried out (programmes for the education of unemployed, study circles, literacy programmes, study help, Programme 5000), - systematic and increased investing in continuous education of staff, working in the area of adult education, and specifically vocational and professional education, - a national adult education self-evaluation model has been developed and implemented in the first 14 adult education organisations. In this way, since 1991 various members (governmental, administrative, research, development and operative) have been gradually building a wholesome strategy for formation and implementation of different measures, with which we intend to encourage a systematic approach to quality development in adult education. Each measure has its role and is complementary to the others. Along with the intensive development and implementation of different measures, which directly or indirectly influenced the care for quality, the processes of Slovenia's accession to the European Union also triggered new questions concerning the quality of adult education. The new European context, which we have just joined, brought new responsibilities and development challenges to the area of adult education. It is of utmost importance for Slovenia's further development, that our citizens are equipped with knowledge, abilities and skills with which they can compete in the European labour market and actively enter the European currents of mobility within this market. With the above mentioned extensive and rapid expansion of adult education services and the measures, already implemented into the educational system, questions about the actual quality of our educational system and the quality of adult 3

4 education as one of its parts within the new European context re-opened. Is the quality of adult education in Slovenia on a high enough level to provide Slovenia with educated and competent individuals, who will be able to enter actively into everyday life and work and thus contribute to the development of Slovenia, its welfare and competitiveness in the international arena? A question, closely linked to such considerations, now appears: do we have appropriate tools, procedures, and knowledge, which we can use in the processes of acquiring quality data and information about how good we are, when the quality of the educational system is concerned, and, equally important: what is the quality of the work of adult education providers educational organisations? Over the past few years, Slovenia has participated in several international surveys, which gave us the opportunity to compare ourselves to others and thus acquire a balanced insight into the quality of our educational system. It is true that a number of results showed that we are successful in some parts of it, and on par with the achievements of developed EU countries. This, of course, is encouraging and confirms the usefulness of some strategic decisions, which had led the processes of curricular reform. However, we must not turn a blind eye to some results, which, in the area of adult education, indicate, that the quality of this system is not quite what we wanted it to be. Slovenian results in the international survey of functional literacy of adults 1 (and they are far from enviable) show that we need to do more to increase the quality of adult education. It was the consideration about the qualitative dimension of education that brought us to realisation that we need to develop additional activities, which will encourage care for quality work in adult education, and implement them into practice of adult education. The activities of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education in the area of quality 1 The study researches achievements of adults in three areas of literacy (prose, document and quantitative literacy). It measures writing skills of the adult population, and classifies them into levels, using problems and tasks from everyday life to test literacy. (Možina, E., 2000: 29-36) 4

5 The new context, in which Slovenia has found itself, brought new development incentives to the area of adult education quality development. At the SIAE, we quickly became aware of that; we are the central national institution in the area of adult education and therefore especially responsible for contributing new professional solutions those that will help the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport establish strategic directives in the area of quality, and those needed to give professional support to the providers of educational services whenever evaluation and development of quality are concerned. Because of the above mentioned reasons, fresh impetus can be seen in the organisation of work at the Slovene Institute of Adult Education, where a new development area "Quality" was defined in New staff capacities and funds were needed, so that, with the support of the ministry of Education and Sports and funding from the European structural funds, we were able to amalgamate the experience obtained in the past in the area of quality development and (self- )evaluation, and approach to the preparation of expert bases, which should help the formation of the wholesome strategy of the development of quality in adult education in Slovenia, even more methodically and systematically. This led us to believe that it is now necessary, among the measures to increase quality, to enforce to an even greater extent the self- evaluation strategy and practice, and that is stated in the Single Program document Measure 2.3: Life-long learning (p. 16) Goals: " the goal of this measure is to set up systems and structures, which will support the strategy of lifelong learning with the help of more contemporary possibilities in education and training, teacher training and training of providers, development of local/regional centres, expansion of the quality providing system and " (p. 162) Specific goals of this measure: "To encourage the execution of quality assuring system, with a special emphasis on the expansion of the self-evaluation model. " (Specific goals of this measure, paragraph 4, p. 163) Activities: "the expansion of the quality providing model based on the principle of self-evaluation, with a special emphasis on the institutions and training for vocational education and adult education (Activities, paragraph 4, p. 163) 5

6 We also looked into the expert opinions, prevalent in Europe today, which consider the principle of self-evaluation, complemented with adequate systems of external quality evaluation as the most appropriate model for achieving the desired quality standards on the European level (the Copenhagen Declaration 2002, report of the co-ordination group for enforcing the Copenhagen Declaration, various materials prepared by the Technical group for quality in vocational and professional education CEDEFOP 2003, etc.). Such professional directives in Europe are wholly compatible with the experience we acquired in Slovenia in the past years. With the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education has been developing its own self-evaluation model for adult education since It is based on, or compatible with, the leading concepts on the level of the European Union and the models, which are being implemented into other parts of the educational system in Slovenia. It was first implemented in 2001, and it has since been adapted by 14 adult education organisations with approximately 400 teachers and other expert staff and approximately 2000 adult participants in education. The self-evaluation model proved feasible and was rated as appropriate by its users (The evaluation of the model was carried out in 2003; it involved collecting opinions of teachers and other users about the usefulness of the model for the development of quality.) We therefore consider that at this moment activities for promoting selfevaluation in adult education in Slovenia need to be directed in two ways: 1. Quantitative aspect: by means of guidance support and education train a number of adult education organisations to be able to carry out self-evaluation independently. 2. Qualitative aspect: to develop a culture of self-evaluation with different motivational, professional and other systemic measures; and also to develop new quality management strategies, which can be observed in an adequate climate of quality and learning, team approach to monitoring one's own work and argumentated and co-operative decision-making about the development of adult education. 6

7 These were our starting points in determining the following measures: inclusion of new adult education organisations into activities of using the selfevaluation model in adult education (POKI/OQEA Offering Quality Education to Adults), development of a model for training staff, and carrying out self-evaluation use training in adult education organisations, development of a system of guidance support to adult education organisations, which carry out self-evaluation, executing training for counsellors for quality to support adult education organisations, which carry out self-evaluation, setting up a network of counsellors for quality in adult education, development of motivational measures to encourage development of quality in adult education organisations, Providing internet support for adult education organisations to help them carry out self-evaluation. All these goals have already been quantified and put in operative sections. This means that during the first phase, which includes the period up to 2006, all organisations that belong to the public network of adult education in Slovenia will be included in at least one of the activities described above. By 2010, self-evaluation should become general practice in all adult education organisations, and other, not yet established methods of external quality evaluation should be annexed to it, along with other measures, with the help of which we are planning to increase greatly the steps taken to improve quality in this area. At the end of this presentation on the current state of adult education in Slovenia and its strategic directions we need to emphasise that in the past decade a lot has been done in this area, that the work in the area of quality development is becoming more methodical and systematic; but how much of what we have planned will come into effect will depend on the operative strategies, long-term support on the national level and especially on the continuous and more systematic investment into the training of experts for (self-)evaluation and quality. 7

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