A few days ago, talking about an experience of a conference I just attended, I reflected on my lack of understanding of a format where participants are asked (expected) to sit, listen and remember something out of it.– for two days or more. I also explained the frustration I feel when the gap between the “experts” and the public is, in my view, deepened by the conference’s platform, the microphones and the absence of interaction. At that point my interlocutor said she was intrigued by my view, as for her part she enjoyed these formal settings, which helped her to focus on the “experts” and learn from them. Fair enough. Perhaps this is the way she was taught to learn? Or the way she actually learns best? I wonder what could be my third assumption …
The conversation reminded me of another one that I had in July, in the frame of the BUILDPEACE project, on the blurred boundaries between formal and non-formal education.
The BUILDPEACE, Building peacebuilders through integrated formal and non-formal learning approaches “ is a project coordinated by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, which gathers practitioners from seven European partners. Three are university partners and four are NGOs . The main objective is to enable innovative new approaches to developing peacebuilders by:
- Creating a common framework of key competencies across the formal education and non-formal education sectors
- Helping learners find navigable and flexible pathways to access relevant learning opportunities
- Blending formal education and non-formal education learning approaches for more comprehensive provision, using technology.
I am involved in this project as the representative of CCIVS (Coordinating committee of International Voluntary Service), as a (so-called) “expert in non-formal education”.
This conversation I was reminded of took place on the final day of our summer workshop. Over the previous 3 days, we, the representatives of the seven partners organisation had been invited to run sessions for the other participants, illustrating our way of “teaching” about our common topic: peacebuilding.
What left a lasting impression on me, perhaps more than the workshops or masterclass themselves, were some unspoken beliefs about education. The belief that University workshops were synonymous with formal education settings and lots-of-content-that-we don’t-remember-all-that-well. Or that non-formal education lead by NGO was equivalent with funny methods and discussions that-are-missing-depth-and-analysis.
How much of this is an accurate reflection of what I really experienced during the workshop? Am I overstating how we ( so called experts in our field) look at the other side?
Sadly, the thought crossed my mind that formal education was no longer for me, but at the same time I also thought that I did not want to continuing exchanging as I already had many occasions with methods I already knew, without some wider input….
From categories that , from my understanding, were meant to support learners in understanding the choices they had for their education, I have the impression that we have created two worlds. Worlds that seem to need a project such as BUILDPEACE in order to blend their learning approaches. I wonder, how real, how useful are these boundaries in our daily realities, and our interactions? How do these boundaries actually support our work?
I cannot shake the feeling that if we ever want to reach the objective of helping learners find navigable and flexible pathways to access relevant learning opportunities, we first and foremost need to do a background work on our vision and understanding of the work of “the other”. We will need to shift the focus to what formal and non-formal practitioners do or could have in common, rather than the concentrating on the things that differentiate us.
Trainer-facilitator- conflict mediator
member of www.Atout-diversite.eu
(photo credits: CCIVS)